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Your Ultimate Guide to Biometric Security Systems

Person's finger on a fingerprint lock.

Security systems with biometric capabilities are the pinnacle of security in the modern world. The word ‘biometrics’ has Greek roots, and literally means ‘life measurements’. These systems are top of the line high security options, and are very useful and high-functioning, especially for businesses.

Person's finger on a fingerprint lock.

What is Biometrics?

Biometrics itself is the measurement of physical, behavioral, or biological traits of an individual. These physical attributes can range from hair or eye color, to fingerprints, to tone or accent when speaking (vocal recognition). Therefore, biometric security systems are those that use these physical, biological, and behavioral characteristics to identify an individual and either grant or deny them access to a room or asset within a building.

Person's face being scanned to unlock a door.

Why Are These Systems Useful?

Though biometrics themselves have been around for almost 100 years, modern biometric security systems are highly advanced and very helpful when it comes to protecting buildings and the assets that lie within them, whether they be physical or digital. Since access is granted or denied based on individual features that are very difficult to recreate or change, the likelihood of an unauthorized person to be granted access is much lower than it would be with a less elaborate system.

Person holding their thumb on a keypad to unlock a door.

The Basics

A standard biometric system is comprised of 4 main components: the input interface, the processing unit, the data store, and the output interface:

  • Input interface: These are the sensors that read human data (such as a fingerprint or an iris scanner) and convert it into digital data.
  • Processing Unit: After the data from the sensors is converted into digital information, it is the job of the processing unit to, well, process it! This may include things like image enhancement, extraction of a specific feature, or comparison of the collected data with that which is stored in the database.
  • Data Store: The processing unit pulls information from the data storage which is used to compare the collected sample to the one logged into the system.
  • Output interface: This component communicates the decision, access granted or denied, to the rest of the system.

For example, let’s say you are attempting to enter Room A. You scan your  fingerprint or iris on the input interface. The processing unit receives data from the data storage to help the system determine whether your scan matches one that has been programmed into the database for someone that has access to Room A. If your scan does match, the output interface will grant you access to Room A.

Pros and Cons

As with any security system, there are certain advantages, as well as fallbacks. Biometric security is no different, and like all, is prone to shortcomings:

Pros:

  • Individual characteristics are just that: individual. This makes it much harder to ‘break into’ a biometric system. It is much more difficult to recreate a biological characteristic than it is to duplicate a key, crack a code, or get your hands on a key fob.
  • Though the process of authentication may sound complicated, the user experience itself is very easy and convenient. There is no need to remember key codes or number combinations, and it is impossible to lose a key or access card since none exist.
  • With biometric systems, it is much easier to control who has access and when they have it. Simply deleting biometric data from data storage will ensure that that individual can no longer enter the facility or specific room, eliminating the risk of floating keys or cards.

Cons:

  • As can be expected from the most high-tech security system, the cost for implementation is quite high when it comes to biometric systems. However, this is coupled with a high reduction in risk for your business and assets.
  • Additionally, privacy concerns can arise with biometric security. When a user’s individual facial features are scanned, they are converted into data and stored. This can pose a problem with regards to data breaches and surveillance. This data, if hacked or stolen, can be used to track a user rather effectively.
  • Though the biometric system is very powerful, it is still prone to bias, inaccuracy, and false positives. For example, if you were to injure the exact finger that is used in a fingerprint scan, this would create an issue. Additionally, individuals who are handicapped may not be able to provide the necessary data to log them into the system.

Conclusion

With all of this being said, it is ultimately up to the individual business owner to decide whether or not a biometric security system is the most optimal solution for their unique organizational needs. Furthermore, if you have any more questions regarding biometric security, or would like to schedule an appointment for a security audit or system installation, call your local Pop-A-Lock experts today!

Funny, Unique Locks for Keeping Your Favorite Things Safe

Padlock connecting a chain on a wooden fence.

If you’ve got a roommate, sibling, or someone else who constantly eats your snacks or snoops around your stuff, it might be time to lock up your items! We’ve compiled some of our favorite novelty and puzzle locks that are sure to keep your food, drinks, and treasures safe.

A jar of Nutella with a rubber spatula in it.

Thwart the Snack Thieves

Nutella Lock: Keep your precious chocolate hazelnut spread safe from hungry roommates, siblings, and everyone else with this locking cover that fits over a variety of Nutella jar sizes. 

Ice Cream Pint Lock: Deter ice cream thieves and keep your pint safe with this Ben & Jerry’s combination lock designed to fit perfectly around a pint of ice cream. Pints aren’t for sharing!  

Lunch Fridge Lock: It might not have been relevant while working from home, but now that you’re bringing lunch to work again, you’ll need to protect your lunch from grabby co-workers. This fridge locker cage will keep your sandwich and snacks safe and make sure no one even thinks about swiping some of your food.

A dozen or so bottles of wine.

Secure Your Adult Beverages

Wine Bottle Puzzle Lock: Next time you give someone a bottle of wine but want to make sure they really have to work for it, attach this 3D puzzle lock and watch them try to decipher how the wooden pieces move. 

Bottle Combination Lock: Far more straightforward than the puzzle lock, this combination lock fits perfectly over opened or unopened wine bottles as well as some liquor bottles. Set your own 3 digit combination and keep others from drinking your booze.

A wooden 3D puzzle.

Protect Your Most Treasured Items

Puzzle Padlock: This lock is ideal for securing something very important because even professional lockpickers won’t be able to get past it. There is no key — the only way to unlock it is by figuring out the exact sequence of steps. 

Puzzle Box: Inside this wooden puzzle box is a small chamber perfect for keeping your small, most prized possession unbelievably safe. The cube will only unlock once all of the dials on each side of the box have been turned to the correct symbol. Figuring out which symbol is the correct one for each side will surely keep someone busy for hours or be so frustrating that they’ll just give up.

A person's hands holding an iphone.

Curb Smartphone Distractions

Secret Book Safe: Hide your phone or other items in plain sight with this decoy dictionary that’s actually a metal lockbox. The exterior blends in perfectly with a stack of books or on a bookshelf and keeps your items safe with a programmable 3 digit combination lock. 

Smartphone Jail: Ensure no one is secretly using a phone at the dinner table or take away your biggest distraction with this mobile phone jail. Open the gate, put up to 6 phones inside, lock the door, and give the key to someone trustworthy.

Pop-A-Lock’s Got Your Back

Now that you’ve had your fair share of confusion, laughter, and intrigue from perusing these unique locks, you can rest assured your stuff will stay safe and protected — unless, of course, you forget the combination to your own locks. But don’t worry — if that happens, you can always call Pop-A-Lock to help you out.

Items You Need to Consider Putting a Lock On

Combination lock on a white cabinet.

Doors aren’t the only things that need locks. As a homeowner, a sturdy  lock  is your first line of defense, but in the case of a natural disaster or break-in, a locked door won’t stand between your valuables and destruction. In these cases — and countless others — it’s best to keep valuables and dangerous items under an additional layer of lock-and-key protection.

Put a lock on it

Whether you realize it or not, your home is full of overlooked dangers and valuables that need to be secured against unwanted intruders. Here are the top household items  to consider putting a lock on:

  • Household hazards: Every household is also home to myriad commonplace hazards: the cleaning chemicals we keep under the sink, the nail polish remover in your bathroom cabinet, that drawer filled with small knick knacks. From the perspective of a toddler or dog, these holding spots seem mysterious and fun — but their contents can be lethal. If you live with small children or pets, it’s important to think of their safety first, and secure every door, cabinet, and drawer that contains items that can be dangerous. As a general rule, this includes cleaning supplies, hygiene products, alcohol, batteries, coins, knives and other sharp objects. Really anything that would be hazardous if swallowed.  To secure these spaces, consider adding a simple baby-proof lock or a deadbolt lock that requires a key to those doors leading outside that toddlers or pets can easily open. 
  • Medicine cabinets: Like the above, medicine cabinets store ointments and medications that are incredibly valuable when used properly, but  potentially lethal when not. To keep these items out of the wrong hands, consider adding a child-proof lock or a key-lock to your medicine cabinet door. This will help you monitor family members who use its contents, in addition to providing extra protection in case of a break-in. Since most prescription medications and topical care products are both expensive and difficult to obtain, taking this small step toward further securing your home can be life-saving.
  • Luggage: Airports are infamous for luggage debacles. Whether it was a suitcase spilling open on the baggage claim or a well-meaning passenger accidentally mistaking your luggage for their own, we’ve all seen a thing or two while traveling. To prevent an unfortunate mix-up or add an extra layer of privacy, consider adding a simple lock to your suitcase!
  • File cabinet: If you don’t want to go so far as purchasing a safe for important legal or medical documents, adding a lock to your filing cabinet is the next best step. However, it’s important to note that most filing cabinets are made of thin sheet metal, meaning that only a turn-key lock could be installed. Additionally, these materials cannot withstand significant force, and would likely break open in the case of a fire or natural disaster. That being said, so long as you keep your key in a secure location away from the desk, a simple lock may be all you need to deter potential thieves or household busybodies.
Small plastic organizing drawers; one is open and has nails in it.

Keep it safe

Sometimes, a mere zip-tie or combination lock isn’t enough. For the priceless valuables and paperwork lying around your home, it’s best to seek the help of a locked, destruction-proof safe. Just to clarify, these items include:

  • Important family documents: Original birth certificates, passports, and social security cards are incredibly difficult to replace, and imperative to have on-hand in the event of an emergency. Through storing your family’s personal documents within a safe, you’re protecting these documents from damage or destruction (not to mention keeping them organized in a handy location!) in case you become displaced due to a fire or natural disaster. 
  • Insurance & legal documents: Should your home get damaged in the unlikely event of a fire or natural disaster, it’s important that your insurance policies and titles remain intact. High-security, fire-proof safes can withstand significant outside force and protect the integrity of your documents. Protecting  insurance policy paperwork can be  integral when trying to access funds for an unexpected emergency. In the same vein, securing your home or automobile titles can protect your claims to your property should they ever come under dispute. 
  • Valuables: Whether it’s priceless jewels, a rare first-edition book, or Grandma’s china teapot, anything a household considers irreplaceable should spend most of its time resting within a locked safe. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t show your valuables off from time to time If a burglar enters your home, for instance, valuables left in the open become instant targets since they’re easily pawned.
  • Firearms: Locking your guns away in a secure safe can protect against these deadly weapons falling into the hands of our youngest family members, in addition to further guarding against a potential misfire. Additionally, in the event of a break-in, securing your guns can prevent financial loss and the possibility of burglars using your own weapons against you.
Orange combination lock on an orange surface.

We know locks

It’s in the name. Here at Pop-A-Lock, our technicians know locks like the back of their hands. It’s why you can count on us to tackle all your residential locksmithing and security needs. Call us to get acquainted with one of our experts now, or hop on over to our website to learn more about our services.

Things You Need to Consider When Purchasing a Safe

A safe with a keypad and bolt lock.

Safes hold an interesting place in our imagination. When we think “safe” we picture an armored case protected by a turn-lock and tucked away behind a painting, no doubt guarding top secret plans or priceless jewels. But you don’t need to be a 19th century baron to employ these nifty devices in protecting your valuables. As a homeowner, any item you would consider irreplicable is worth securing. A safe might just be what you need to help you sleep a little more soundly, knowing your possessions are guarded in case of the worst.

A safe on a shelf.

It Pays to Have a Safe

Purchasing a safe is an investment toward your financial and personal security in the case of an unexpected crisis, such as a home invasion or natural disaster. Whether it’s a legal document, precious heirloom, expensive jewelry, or an obscure trading card collection, all households have valuables that would be considered nearly impossible to replace if damaged or stolen. Secured safes protect these items in case of an emergency. If a burglar entered your home, for instance, valuables left in the open would become immediate targets, and those left unsecured would likely be sought and found as thieves look for items that can be easily pawned.

Additionally, if you or someone in your household owns firearms, keeping them locked  inside a safe can prevent members of your household from being hurt in the unfortunate case of a misfire. It’s also great way to keep these devices  away from curious little hands and criminals alike.

Open safe on a table.

Top Considerations When Choosing a Safe

After you’re set on purchasing a safe, it’s important you select a model that corresponds to your specific needs — especially because high-end safes can be incredibly expensive. While all homeowners have different reasons for buying a safe, these are specific functions everyone should consider:

  • Fire-proof or fire-resistant: These two terms seem to mean virtually the same thing, but homeowners should be aware of the subtle differences between fire-proof and fire-resistant safes, and what this means for their valuables. Both FP and FR models protect safe contents from high temperatures. However, “fireproof” is usually associated with products that are slightly more durable, being able to withstand high temperatures for longer periods. For these reasons, safe manufacturers and industry marketers prefer this term, and highlight the virtues of fireproof safes to a greater degree than fireproof ones. Generally, fireproof safes are thought to provide a basic shield against fire and nothing more. 
  • Safe thickness: It might seem intuitive, but the thickness of your safe’s walls are of the utmost importance. The complexity of the locking mechanism or durability of the material won’t mean a thing if the safe itself can’t withstand significant force. To start, consumers should look into the safe’s UL rating. UL stands for Underwriter Laboratories, a third-party company that’s been trusted for centuries and tests products to determine if they meet specific, defined requirements. The majority of safes have a UL rating of TL-5 for a Residential Security Container. Quite literally, this means the safe door and walls can withstand approximately five minutes of being beaten by a crowbar and hammer. This is actually an incredibly low level of protection: in general, the minimum level of good protection starts at a Class B rating. These safes have a door of 1/2 inch solid steel, with 1/4-inch solid-steel walls. These bad boys can withstand hours and hours of beating from the most common burglary instruments.
  • Locking mechanism: The locking mechanism on your safe can make all the difference. For over 125 years, consumers have relied on classic combination locks to secure their personal valuables. Combo locks have a proven success rate spanning many decades, and offer the significant advantage of not needing batteries. Newer electronic locks have keypads connecting to the locking mechanism, only opening when the correct code is entered. In contrast to combo and key locks, electronic locks allow for quick access and guard against owners losing keys or forgetting the steps to unlock a combo lock. Electronic lock codes can be changed easily as well, something most combo locks can’t do. Even if your batteries wear out, the current code will be saved to a memory chip and kick back in as soon as new batteries are inserted. All that being said, both combo and electronic locks are UL rated and provide a high level of security. Choosing between the two depends entirely on your personal preferences.
Person turning the knob of a safe.

How Pop-A-Lock can help

If you’re still stuck on the details, one of Pop-A-Lock’s skilled technicians is only a phone call away. We can help guide you through the process of selecting a safe, and choosing the proper locking mechanism so that your valuables receive the utmost degree of protection. And, if you ever happen to get locked out of your safe, we’re here for you as well with our 24/7 residential lockout services. Give us a ring today!

What You Need to Know if You Are Considering a Double Sided Deadbolt

Open door with several deadbolt pins on the side.

If you’ve ever lived in a home or apartment with a deadbolt lock, you’re aware of the extra security that comes with it. Even if you didn’t understand how it worked, it simply felt good to have a door with two locks, like an extra layer of protection. But how safe are deadbolts, exactly? As a homeowner looking to protect family and valuables from intruders, it’s important to understand how different locks work, and which ones can provide you with the greatest security. In some cases, deadbolts aren’t nearly secure enough, and it’s time to consider the deadbolt’s jacked-up cousin: the double-sided deadbolt lock.

What’s a double-sided deadbolt anyway?

Most of us are familiar with deadbolts, the locks that typically rest above  normal home lock and require an extra key to unlock from the outside. Conventional home locks (the first layer of security) typically use  a spring bolt to hold the lock in place, and can be undone merely by turning the locking mechanism. Deadbolts, on the other hand, are locks that cannot be rotated without a key. This means that if a person was able to unlock a spring bolt using a key or other means, they would still be unable to open the door without using the deadbolt key, or having someone unlock the deadbolt from inside the home. 

But are traditional deadbolts the most secure? Put briefly, no.

While deadbolts do require a key in order to turn the lock, this locking mechanism only works on the outside. This means that if an opened window was near the door, or if someone was able to break into the home through the back, the front door deadbolt could simply be opened through turning the lock on the inside. This is how single-cylinder deadbolts work. This is different from double-sided or double-cylinder deadbolts, which have a locking mechanism on both sides of the door, and require keys to turn the locks both inside and outside the door.

A closed blue door.

Pros and Cons

Locks play an important role in ensuring the safety and security of your home. While double-sided deadbolts are decidedly more secure, there are drawbacks to this added protection. When choosing the right lock for your home, it’s important to consider your needs first.

Efficiency: The most obvious difference between traditional deadbolts and double-sided deadbolts is the ease of use. Since double-sided deadbolts require two keys, and someone to operate the lock from the inside, they’re decidedly more time consuming and difficult. Whereas single-cylinder deadbolts need only one key (and one person) to unlock the door. Even if someone was waiting to unlock the door from the inside, they would only need to thumb-turn the lock to open it, rather than using a key. This makes single-cylinder deadbolts more convenient and practical overall, explaining their popularity — but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safer.

Cost: This is another area in which single-cylinder deadbolts prove superior. Since regular deadbolts are incredibly common and easy to install, they’re relatively cheap compared  to double-sided deadbolts, which are more complex, requiring a. 

Protection: Although double-sided deadbolts are a bit of a hassle — and certainly more expensive — than regular deadbolts, that’s not to say they’re without their virtues. For one, double-sided deadbolts are the most secure lock. This is especially important if  your front door is located near a window that can be easily opened or broken, or if the door itself is made of glass. With traditional deadbolts, intruders looking to enter your home would simply need to smash the glass and reach inside to thumb-switch the lock open. But with double-cylinder deadbolts, even if they managed to damage your home, the intruders would still be unable to enter without using the indoor key. This extra layer of security is also helpful in ensuring children don’t accidentally open the lock and wander outside, unsupervised.

But this added step of using an indoor key also makes double-sided deadbolts potentially dangerous. In the case of a fire, for instance, the time it takes to track down a key and turn the lock could be a matter of life and death. This lock also makes it incredibly difficult for emergency personnel to enter your residence, and could even prohibit you from escaping an outside threat.

Keys dangling from a lock on a grey door.

How to choose

There are an equal number of benefits and drawbacks to double-sided deadbolt locks, but whether they’ll work for you will ultimately depend on your needs as a homeowner. If crime is an issue in your area, or if you’re deeply concerned about the safety of your possessions, the double-sided deadbolt may be the way to go. But if you value efficiency and worry about access in the case of emergencies, single-cylinder deadbolts could provide all the protection you need.

An open door with a dog peeking around the doorway.

We’re Here to Help

Whether you’ve settled on getting a double-sided deadbolt or still have some doubts, Pop-A-Lock is here to walk you through the next steps. We specialize in an array of door locks, so check out our website or call your local Pop-A-Lock today to get a quote!

Bike Safety: Security and Storage Tips and Tricks

Making Your Bike Theft-Proof

bike tire assembly

Whether you commute by bike every day or are more of a casual hobby rider, the possibility of someone stealing your bike is always a looming threat. Fortunately, there are a lot of great security and storage options available to protect your bike as best as you can. We’ve compiled some of our most trusted tips for bike safety, security, and storage, so you can feel confident knowing your bike is protected.

Bike Security

prepared with bike lock

Types of Bike Locks

Bike locks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and security levels, so knowing the differences between them is an important part of choosing the best one for you. 

U-Locks: Also called D-locks because of their shape, these locks are some of the most highly recommended for cities and other high-density areas. U-locks are incredibly strong and are unable to be cut with bolt cutters but aren’t overwhelmingly heavy, making them a great choice for most people. At first, it can certainly feel awkward trying to secure your bike with a U-lock because of its shape and inflexibility, but it gets easier with a little practice. Unless your U-lock is particularly large, you’ll need to lock your bike to relatively thin posts, bike racks, railings, etc, which can make finding a spot to park a little more challenging sometimes. 

Chain Locks: Offering high levels of strength plus greater flexibility in movement, chain locks are tough to beat. The thick, reinforced chain is difficult to cut but can easily be wrapped around multiple parts of your bike before securing it to a rack or other post. Depending on the size and shape of your bike, you might even be able to secure the bike frame and both tires using only one chain lock. The major drawback to chain locks, however, is that they’re quite heavy, so in opting for high security and flexibility, you lose out on it being lightweight. 

Cable Locks: By far the most common kind of bike lock, cable locks are also the most affordable option. You can choose between combination locks — which are great if you have a tendency to lose keys — or keyed locks — which are a solid bet if you have trouble remembering lock combinations. However, cable locks are incredibly easy to break and cut through with simple tools, making bikes locked with them a very easy target. That’s not to say you should never buy a cable lock, however, they’re not the most secure so are inadvisable for many areas.

bikes locked up

Lock Your Bike Like a Pro

Now that you’ve invested time and money into choosing a good bike lock, it’s time to learn how to use it correctly. A strong, sturdy lock can lose most of its efficacy if not used properly, meaning you could have the toughest lock on the market, but if you don’t lock your bike smartly, someone could still manage to steal it. The following guidelines should help ensure your bike is well protected: 

  • Make sure your bike is locked to a fixed, immovable object like a post or bike rack that is cemented into the ground. Otherwise, someone could lift up what your bike is locked to and slide the lock right off. 
  • Try to include as many parts of your bike inside the lock as possible. Always start by locking the frame to the rack and then try to get a tire in as well if possible! If your lock allows, securing the frame and both tires to the stationary object is ideal. 
  • Park your bike in the middle of the bike rack. The ends of the rack offer the most access for a potential thief to break your lock and make off with your bike. 
  • Use multiple locks if necessary. Some U-Locks come with an additional cable lock that can reach and be looped through the front tire. If you’ve secured your frame and back tire but are worried about someone making away with your front tire, you could opt for 2 U-Locks instead. While 2 U-Locks are more secure, this method also ends up being much heavier because of the weight of both locks.
  • If you have a keyed lock, try and angle the key slot towards the ground. This simple tip makes it much more difficult for someone to pick the lock or tamper with the locking mechanism.
bikes in a row

Bike Storage

While parking and locking your bike in public places can seem the riskiest, 50% of bike thefts actually occur on private property. It is imperative to always lock your bike, and lock it well, even around your home. If you are able to store your bike indoors or have a private garage, that is ideal, but realistically, many people don’t have either of those options available to them. Communal storage facilities in some apartment buildings are an excellent option as long as you are diligent about locking your bike after each use. 

The extra couple of minutes it takes to lock and secure your bike can be annoying or frustrating, but it is so much better than having your bike stolen or damaged.

bike lock

Pop-A-Lock is Here to Help

The reality is, even if you do everything right and try to make your bike as secure as possible, your bike still could get stolen. No lock is 100% unbreakable or impenetrable, so if someone does manage to get through your lock and deterrent strategies, it can be incredibly frustrating. 

We also know that sometimes we make mistakes ourselves — losing keys, forgetting combinations, locking ourselves out, you name it. If you find yourself needing a professional’s help to get out of a sticky situation, call your local Pop-A-Lock; we’re always here to help.

5 Reasons Why People Lock Themselves Out of Their House and How to Prevent It

5 Reasons Why People Lock Themselves Out of Their House and How to Prevent It

waiting on stairs

You think it’ll never happen to you until you’re standing at your front door, groceries in hand, only to realize you have no way of getting back in. For one reason or another, your keys are MIA. You’re locked out. This is a common predicament, and it can happen to even the most vigilant adults. Before resorting to breaking in, learn the main reasons people get locked out of their homes, and what you can do to prevent a lockout.

key on ground

Top 5 reasons for lockouts

  1. Lost keys: Though most of us run through the “wallet, phone, keys” check when leaving home or running errands, in the hurry of everyday life, it’s easy to set your keys down only to forget to pick them up again. Due to their size and weight, keys are also liable to slipping out of our hands and pockets unnoticed. Because we’re accustomed to having our keys on us at all times, we may not even realize they’re gone until it’s too late.
  2. Leaving keys inside: You don’t need to lose your keys entirely to get locked out. In many cases, all it takes is forgetting to bring your keys outside when you’re locking up. Many residences have automated locks that seal the door as soon as they’re shut, key or no key. Even if your door isn’t fitted with any fancy gadgets, most exterior doors have two locks: the standard door lock and deadbolt. The standard door lock and be set from the inside and lock the moment someone pulls the door shut. It’s in reaching for your deadbolt key, however, that you realize your pockets are empty, the door is sealed, and your keys are sitting safely inside.
  3. Damaged or broken keys: They may be made of steel or brass, but keys aren’t indestructible. Over time, the teeth on a key become worn down, making it difficult for the notches to catch inside the lock. This, combined with excessive force, can cause keys to break inside the lock itself, leaving residents with no way to turn the lock and open the door.
  4. Door jambs: Houses and apartments are unpredictable. Whether through drastic temperature changes or moisture, door frames can expand and contract, causing them to become stuck. Locks can also become jammed through rust or constant wear. In these cases, even if your key is in prime condition, there might not be a way to get your door unstuck without damaging it.
  5. Stolen keys: In the worst case scenario, keys and key rings can be stolen off our person or taken when we leave them sitting around. If you don’t have a spare, you could be left with no option of getting back into your home.

Step one to preventing a lockout: don’t get locked out

Though we’re in the business of busting locks, if we could prevent home lockouts — and the embarrassment and stress that comes with them — we would. You might not be able to protect against broken keys or door jams, but following these useful tips could help you avoid all preventable lockouts:

  • Limit all keys to one key-ring. It may be bulky and slightly difficult to carry around, but having a single ring for all your keys results in less items to keep track of, in addition to being harder to lose.
  • Set a designated drop-off point. Having a small key dish or hook near your front door can serve as a reminder to bring your keys with you through all your comings and goings.
  • Make a spare key. In the unfortunate case of a lockout, it’s handy to have a spare key either on your person or stored in a secure location outside your residence. Duplicate keys can be created at most hardware stores or through key copy kiosks. You can then hide your spare in a secure location, or store it in a covert outdoor key-holder (these are often disguised as rocks or sprinklers).
  • Have a mental check-list. Remember the “wallet, phone, keys” check we mentioned earlier? This may seem like a no-brainer, but doing a simple check for your valuables before you return home can help you keep track of your possessions and alert you to any missing items.
key door

Stuck? Pop-A-Lock is on it

So you’re locked out. (We get it, nobody’s perfect). Before kicking down a perfectly fine door or smashing a window, give Pop-A-Lock a ring. Through our 24/7 lockout service, we’ll dispatch a locksmith to your location and get you back into the comfort of your home in a flash.

The Best Outdoor Security Camera Systems

The Best Outdoor Security Camera Systems

installing camera

As a homeowner, installing a top-notch outdoor security system is an investment in both your property and peace of mind. With these nifty devices, no matter where you are, you’ll have round the clock visibility of your home’s perimeter, allowing you to spot suspicious activity before it becomes a problem. Sometimes, the presence of a security camera alone can be enough to ward off potential intruders! That said, let’s dive into today’s top security camera systems.

Differences in Security Camera Systems

Although all high-end security camera systems on today’s market perform the vital function of video surveillance, the quality and complexity of this ability varies between products. When choosing your home’s techno watchdog, it helps to keep a list of key features to guide your search, including:

  • Video Quality: If all your images appear as fuzzy dots, what’s the point of having a security camera anyway? Even if you only intend to install a camera as a cautionary measure, it’s important all images the system captures render at a high enough quality to alert you to potential mischief or — in the worst case — to be used as viable evidence in the incident of a home invasion. Since security cameras function on the same pixel technology as video cameras, it’s important to select a system with high resolution. Generally, 4 MP or 1080p resolution is high enough to record clear images with obscured details, while 5 MP is the gold standard.
  • Power Source: Like all electronics, security cameras need to derive their power from somewhere. At the moment, there are three types of power sources for wireless cameras: solar powered, plug-in cable, and battery powered. 
  • Installation: Most cameras can be installed simply with a screwdriver. The complicated part is deciding where the best place to install it is.
  • Storage: There are two ways you can store your camera’s video footage: local or cloud. With local storage, you will store the footage on a microSD card or a USB drive and want to make sure it is easily accessible in time of need. Most people prefer this method because it is both convenient and private. With cloud storage, you can view the footage from anywhere through your phone or any other electronic device that has the app.
camera styles
security camera

Stay Secure with Pop-A-Lock

If you’re still on the fence about installing an outdoor security camera system, let Pop-A-Lock  clear up your doubts with our residential security audit. We’ll scour your property in search of security blind spots, and advise you on how to beef up your defenses. Or, if you prefer to poke around for yourself, download our free home security audit checklist today!

How to Know if Your Hotel Room is Secure

How to Know if Your Hotel Room is Secure

Hotel room door key

Traveling is a fun adventure for some, stressful for others. However, the one thing all travelers have in common is wanting their temporary home to feel like a safe space in an unfamiliar place. But how can you know for sure that your hotel room is secure? Pop-A-Lock is here to give you a few helpful tips!

Hotel door smart keys

Booking

How should I book? Ensuring your safety while traveling starts when you are booking a hotel. Experts say it is better to book online, thereby avoiding the need to give out sensitive information over the counter where it’s possible it will be overheard by strangers.

How do I keep my information safe? When you do get to the hotel, it may be helpful to be extra cautious even when interacting directly with the concierge. Try writing down your information and handing it to the concierge instead of speaking it out loud. This tip can be especially helpful for solo female travelers as it can deter someone from trying to follow you to your room.

What floor is best to book? You may also want to avoid booking rooms on the ground floor, as they are more vulnerable to break-ins from the outside. It is also best to book rooms between floors two and six; in case of a fire, rescue ladders can typically reach up to the sixth floor of a hotel.

What about hotel amenities? Try to steer clear of rooms near ice/vending machines. These rooms can be more noisy since there will be greater foot traffic in the area, and criminals are known to frequent the dark and secluded corners of these areas. Floors with conference or meeting rooms should also be avoided, since there is an increased number of people who are not staying at the hotel walking around.

hotel booking online

The Room

Once you are safely in your hotel room, it is time to do a security sweep of the space. There are a few things you should check, and a few extra precautions you might want to take:

  • Check hiding places: The first thing you should do when you get into the room is keep the door open while you check every part of the room where someone could be hiding. This includes areas like showers, closets, and behind curtains. Once you are certain that nobody else is in the room with you, close and lock the door.
  • Safes: There is much discourse about whether the provided safes are reliable places to store important documents, such as passports, flight tickets, and money. Some say that the hotel safes are your best bet for securing your belongings, while others recommend bringing an extra layer of security in the form of a portable safe or portable travel lock. Below you can find links to a few recommended products for this kind of security:
  • Locks: Check all locks to ensure that each one is working properly. This includes the deadbolt on the hotel room door, the safe, and any lockable cabinets or drawers that you may want to use during your stay.
  • Doors and windows: Check any door that connects to another room and make sure that it is locked. Check all windows and make sure they are locked. If you want to keep a window open, see if there is any way for someone to get inside the room using that window. If your room has a balcony, can somebody get onto your balcony from the balcony of a neighboring room?
Hotel Mornings

Do’s and Don’ts

After you’ve safely checked in, gotten to your room, and taken a look around, it is crucial to keep in mind that you need to be looking out for your own safety throughout the entire stay. Here’s a list of some do’s and don’ts for your hotel stay:

Do:

Keep a hand on your luggage at all times. When carrying luggage through a hotel lobby, be wary of where it is in relation to you. Try to keep it in front of or next to you, or give it to someone you are with so they can keep an eye on it.

Use doorstops. Placing a doorstop under the door to keep it closed is an important safety step, especially at night.

Make it look as if you are in your room, always. Even when you are not there, making it look like you are can deter intruders from trying to come inside. A few ways to do this include:

  • Leaving the TV on just loud enough to where it can be heard through the door.
  • Leave the Do Not Disturb sign on the door (timing is a factor here, since this may interfere with housekeeping)
  • Leave a light on. This is especially important when you are going out and expecting to be back only after the sun has set.

Know your emergency exit plan. Whether you ask the concierge for a map, or scout out your emergency exit plan for yourself, it is good to know where to go in an unfamiliar setting if there were ever an emergency.

Don’t:

Connect to hotel Wi-Fi without a VPN. Like coffee shops or airport Wi-Fi networks, hotel networks are public, and therefore prone to hackers. If you are planning on connecting to your hotel’s Wi-Fi network, be sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Give anyone personal information over the phone. There have been several instances of criminals calling into the hotel and asking to be patched through to a specific room. They will then speak to you and tell you that your card was declined, invalid, or otherwise not charged. They will ask for your card number, effectively stealing that information from you. To avoid this, tell whoever is calling that you will come to the front and speak to them directly.

Prop the door open. Ever. If you are traveling with friends or family and staying in separate rooms, it is not smart to prop or leave doors open for easier access. This can be seen as an open invitation for intruders and burglars to come in and rummage through your belongings. Rather than propping the door open, ask for additional copies of room key cards so everyone you’re with can access each room with ease.

Conclusion

Your safety while traveling is an important factor that can influence your entire trip. Protecting your personal information, checking every part of your hotel room, and keeping belongings and personal data secure are crucial steps to ensuring your peace of mind. Be sure to follow these helpful tips and tricks next time you are on the road or on vacation!

5 Signs Your Lock Might Need to be Replaced

5 Signs Your Lock Might Need to be Replaced

We depend on our locks daily. The motions of turning our keys or flipping the deadbolt switch behind us are so  route, we probably don’t think about it at all.  We simply expect our doors to lock securely. But like any other piece of hardware, locks are susceptible to damage and erode over time. To not risk compromising your home’s security, check up on your locks every now and then — they may need a little care, especially if they display any of the following warning signs.

5 Signs That Lock Needs To Go

1. Damaged or malfunctioning

This is perhaps the most obvious — and urgent — sign your lock needs to be replaced. If your lock is damaged in any way, you may experience issues turning the key or, in the worst case, the door may fail to lock or open entirely. If this happens with your door even once, it’s best to be proactive and look into replacement options before you risk a complete lock-out.

2. Wear and tear

Despite what our kitchen appliances may think, locks are probably the pieces of household hardware that see the most daily use. But because we’re constantly locking and unlocking our doors, the locks themselves are subjected to more wear, making them more likely to break down over time. This is especially true if your locks came with your home or apartment, since it’s difficult to tell how old they are, or if previous owners used excessive force on the lock. Exterior locks can also deteriorate as a result of being subjected to the natural elements. When locks begin to rust, they weaken from the inside, making for a difficult lock-up but an easy break-in.

3. New home or apartment

Whenever you’re moving  into a  home or apartment, replacing the old, pre-existing locks is the first step to shoring up your security. In most cases, property managers and landlords will not change out locks that are still in working condition, regardless of whether these locks have served multiple homeowners or renters.  This poses a potential security risk since previous  owners or renters may still have keys in their possession, in addition to any friends or family members they made key copies for. It’s unlikely that any of these people are ill-intentioned, but prevent any chance of a seamless break-in, it’s best to replace these old locks with new ones.

4. Recent break-in

 If you or someone in your neighborhood or apartment complex has been the victim of a recent break-in, it’s almost imperative that you get your locks replaced. If the burglar entered using brute force, it’s likely that the door or  locking mechanism is now damaged, making it all the more likely that it won’t shut or lock properly. However, if the burglar entered by picking the lock or using a poorly-hidden spare key, two things are almost certain: your locks are not secure enough, and criminals are likely to target you again. Replacing the lock is the remedy for both issues. 

5. Security changes

Often, you need to turn outward to properly assess whether or not you need a new lock. A single-cylinder lock may have served you well in the past, but if you notice a decline in the security of your neighborhood, it’s time to consider ditching your old locks for something more secure. Strings of break-ins, increased reports of violence, and vandalism are all common signs that your neighborhood is becoming less safe. When crime moves into your area, homes with weak defenses and mass-produced locks are often targeted first.

We’ll handle those locks

At Pop-A-Lock, our team of locksmiths are experts on lock replacement, ready to tackle your security needs. Just give us a call to chat about safety concerns, or to get a quote on replacing your lock. Whatever your needs, if there’s a lock involved, we’re the ones for the job.