It’s summer time and that means your summer vacation is finally here! However, a vacation also means your home will be empty for a period of time and it can become a target for a burglary. That is why, as you plan for the final details for your trip, you need to take time to plan for what’s going to be left behind, your home. According to the Insurance Information Institute, nine out of 10 home break-ins could be prevented. Use these 14 tips to help protect your home while you are on vacation.
1. Don’t publicize you are on vacation. The old recommendation was never to leave a message on your home answering machine saying you’re on vacation, but now it’s also important to not post your vacation plans on your Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts. Most social media posts become a permanent record and it is like announcing your vacation in the newspaper for all to read.
2. Stop delivery of your mail and newspapers or have them picked up regularly by a trusted neighbor. Remember you can put your mail on hold online at https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/landingView.do
3. Have a trusted person check on your home. This person will, ideally, stop by as often as possible to check for any deliveries that haven’t been stopped, water plants, open curtains periodically and even move your car from the garage out into the driveway once in a while. This person also needs to have your cell phone and contact infomation in case they have any questions or concerns while you are gone.
4. Install timers on your indoor and outdoor lights. Keeping lights on inside and outside of your home with timers will make it look like someone’s home, or will be soon. Make sure to put at least one light on a programmable timer so some lights can be turned off and on randomly. Programmable timers can be found at most hardware stores for about $20. Also installing motion-detectors on your outdoor lights can help deter potential burglars.
5. Make sure the garage door cannot be opened. You will probably need to disconnect the garage door opener or install a padlock to do this.
6. Arrange for someone to cut the lawn. Nothing gives away an unoccupied home faster than grass that is over a foot long. If you will be gone long enough for the grass to grow too high, make sure a friend, neighbor or hired service will cut it for you. Also make sure that shrubs around windows and doors are cut back, removing all good hiding spots.
7. Advise the police department and security system company you will be gone. Many police departments will check on your home while you’re away.
8. Lock all your doors and windows. This may sound obvious, but it’s estimated that 28 percent of burglaries occur without using force to gain entry. In other words, they probably entered through an unlocked window or door. Check all of your windows and doors, including the one leading into your home from the garage, and windows in the basement.
9. Secure sliding glass doors. Sliding doors can be forced open by intruders. Placing a metal or wooden rod in the track will prevent this.
10. Remove valuables away from windows and obvious locations. Don’t create a reason for someone to break-in. Make sure all jewelry, money, personal identity and electronics are out of view from all windows. Also hide valuables in non-traditional places like outside of the bedroom.
11. Unplug everything you can. Other than the refrigerator, freezer and lights on timers, everything — including the coffee pot, computer, TV, toaster, etc. — should be unplugged when you’re on vacation. This is because the circuits are still active and susceptible to lightning and power surges.
12. Turn off water valves. If you will be gone for a week or more, you may want to turn off the water to your toilets, sinks, washing machine, ice maker and dishwasher.
13. Tell your neighbor where the water main shut-off is located. A sudden pipe burst can be a major event and extra time searching for the main shut-off could cause significantly more damage.
In conclusion, burglary is one of the most preventable of crimes. By taking a few simple precautions you can dramatically reduce the risks of coming home to an unpleasant surprise. Feel free to share this list with someone you know who is planning a vacation. Be safe out there this summer!