Ahh, summertime: The time of vacations, getting away, seeing family or friends, and relaxation. But not being home can sometimes be a problem, too. Whether it is an opportunity for thieves or a burst water heater, being away from home means you’re not there to keep an eye on things. Here are some tips to protect your home or apartment while you’re away.
Secure your home
Making your home safe is the first step to a worry-free vacation:
· Install and activate a home security system
· Install strong doors made of solid wood or steel
· Use deadbolt locks
· Lock windows and secure basement windows, including pet doors
· Place motion-sensor floodlights around your home
· Remove the spare key and give it to a trusted friend (they’re too easy to find)
Maintain the exterior of your property
Keeping your lawn mowed, hedges trimmed, and plants watered helps to keep your property looking good but it also helps to make it look occupied to burglars. Trimming your shrubs, especially if they have become overgrown and obscure your windows is another good idea. Also, make arrangements to have a neighbor put out your trash so that your garage doesn’t smell like a landfill when you come home.
Make your home look lived in while you’re gone
Leaving a light on may be fine for one overnight but it’s not for an extended stay. In our normal lives we come and go and turn lights on and off at different times. Using light timers to turn lights on and off in different rooms at different times can make your home look like there is someone there. The mechanical ones are inexpensive, or you can buy smart timers that you can control through your phone and wi-fi. While we are talking about things that use electricity, unplug your television, computer, toaster oven and other appliances. If there is a lightning strike or power surge, doing so can protect these sensitive appliances from getting fried. Plus, you may save some electricity, too.
Window blinds and shades
Some people like to close all of their blinds before they go on vacation. Others like to leave them open so that neighbors and police can easily see into their home. It may depend on where you live, e.g., high vs. low crime area. There are advantages to each. However, the best approach may be to leave them the way they are normally. If you usually have your binds open all the time and then close them only when you are gone on vacation, that may give the look of “we are away”.
Ask a friend or neighbor to check on your home
A good friend can water your plants and take a look around every few days to make sure everything looks okay in your home. They can also pick up any packages that arrive while your away. (It always seems like my stuff arrives the day after I leave!) A pile of Amazon packages sitting by your door screams, “I’m away.” Also, be sure to put a stop on your USPS mail and newspaper subscriptions if you have them.
Call the Police to let them know you’ll be away
You don’t need to tell them you’re gone for the weekend, but you can let them know that you’re away for a week or more. In many towns, the Police may be able to drive by your home to see that everything looks fine while they are out on patrol. It also doesn’t hurt to let a trusted friend or neighbor know, too.
Hot and cold
If you are going to be gone, especially for an upcoming heat wave, turn your air conditioning off or set it to 90 degrees. For your fridge, purge all perishable foods before your trash day before you leave. That way, your fridge won’t smell like a science experiment when you return. Also, if you’ve been meaning to replace your freezer because its old and not keeping things as cold as it should, do it before your go away.
Avoid posting on social media while you are gone
If you’re like me, you have a lot of “friends” or connections on social media that are acquaintances. Even though you may not be friends with criminals, some social media platforms share your updates with friends of friends. This opens your posts up to a much wider, and perhaps unknown, audience than you might expect. If thieves know you’re on vacation, it doesn’t take much for them to figure out your home address. Its best to wait to post all of your phenomenal vacation photos until after your return. If you want to post while on vacation, only post to “close friends” that you trust.
Put away valuable papers
The best place for the deed to your home or titles to your cars typically is a safety deposit box or home safe. Don’t leave these or other important papers on the kitchen counter or on your home office desk. That’s an invitation for trouble.
Cash, credit cards or gift cards
Take these with you or secure them in a safe. Thieves love finding these items because they are hard to trace and really easy to carry.
Laptops and smartphones
If you are like most people, your life is on your smartphone or laptop. These are high on the burglars’ lists. They, too, are easy to carry and can fetch good money. Either put them away, e.g. secure them in a locked desk or safe, or bring them with you. However, vacationers are often high interest targets for thieves. When traveling, you’ll need to secure them or keep them on you while traveling.
While vacations can be a lot of fun and are truly necessary for a healthy lifestyle, don’t forget these important tips so that you are not faced with a surprise upon your return.
Do you have other questions about how to be a safe vacationer? Give us call. We’re here to help. You can schedule a quick call with me by clicking HERE.
Lyman H. Jackson
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