Common sense tells us that burglars strike when everyone’s out. It is convenient, easy, and well, they hate company. Murphy’s Law also supports this: if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong while you’re on vacation—definitely the worst time that a household calamity can strike.
It is understandable that some homeowners feel uneasy about leaving to take a break from the work, but how will they ensure home security while on vacation? No one wants to come home to a ransacked house after a weekend of fun and relaxation.
In your travel checklist, make sure you include measures on how to keep your home safe while you’re away.
A house or apartment left empty while its owners are traveling is a tempting target for criminals. We don’t want to scare you — or leave you fearing for your treasured belongings while basking on a beach. But it’s imperative that every traveler take certain key steps to keep his or her home safe and sound while seeing the world. Basic preventative measures (which take only minutes to complete) can work wonders to help you keep your home safe from power surges, broken pipes, home invasions and more while you’re away.
Ask a Friend to Help
A simple, albeit crucial, way to gain peace of mind while traveling is to ask a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re away. First, bribe your friend with some freshly baked cookies or cupcakes. Next, ask him or her to drive by your home once every day or so and check on the place. Give this person a key so that he or she can bring your mail in, feed your cat, water your plants, rake your leaves, etc. If you don’t have a garage, you may also want to give this person a key to your car — you never know when your vehicle may need to be moved. He or she should also have your contact information and a copy of your itinerary in case of emergencies.
Do you have more than one person visiting your house while you’re away? If so, tell them about each other! If the neighbor you asked to keep an eye on your abode calls the police on your elderly cat sitter, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Don’t Tip Off Criminals on the Web
In a world where it seems everyone is blabbing about their business on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to stop and think: Who exactly is reading this stuff? The anonymity of the internet can encourage us to share personal information without fully realizing that there may be hundreds of complete strangers receiving our daily musings. Would you announce to a crowd that you will be leaving your house unattended for two weeks this December? If not, then you should think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on social media — especially if that information is visible to internet users other than your friends and family (and it probably is).
Be careful what you say on your answering machine or voice mail too. Callers don’t need to know that you’re not home — they just need to know that you can’t come to the phone right now.
Curtains Closed — or Open?
Before you leave for vacation, you may decide to close your curtains to prevent people from peering inside your home to see whether you’re there. However, closed curtains also stop those who aim to help — the police, your neighbors or friends — from seeing inside your house. So what’s your best bet? Leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you’re home, since noticeable changes could hint that you’re not around anymore — especially if your curtains are uncharacteristically left closed for two weeks. Move expensive items, like jewelry or computers, out of plain sight if they’re visible from the window.
The Lights Are on But No One’s Home
Don’t leave your lights on at home throughout your entire vacation in an effort to make it look like someone is in the house. Your electric bill will end up more costly than your mortgage, and house lights blazing throughout the night might look a bit suspicious.
Instead, purchase a light switch timer that can turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule. Criminals keeping an eye on your house will notice lights flipping on and off, and will probably assume someone is doing the flipping.
Pull the Plug
Unplug your television, computer, toaster oven and other appliances to protect them from power surges. This will help you save power as well; many appliances draw energy even when they’re turned off.
Lock the Garage Door
If you have an automatic garage opener (rather than a manual door that you have to open and close by hand), you’re already pretty secure. Those doors are hard to open for burglars. There is a workaround, however, called “fishing.” It’s where a burglar will snake a coat hanger through the top of the door, and pull the emergency release trigger, turning off the automatic opener and allowing the door to be opened manually. This isn’t possible on all openers, but it’s definitely a risk for some.
Don’t Lead Burglars to Your Home With Your GPS
Many a GPS, either the portable or built-in style, has led thieves directly to unsuspecting homes. When a car is left at the airport, a bad guy can break in, turn on the GPS unit and often find out exactly where home is. If you have a portable unit, don’t leave it in the car either at the airport, or in your hotel parking lot at night if you’re road-tripping. If you have a built-in unit, set “home” for something other than your actual exact address. Use a nearby intersection or cafe instead. That way you’ll still get home, but won’t lead anyone else there either. (It’s not a bad idea to do this with your portable unit as well just in case anyone gets their hands on it
Stash Valuables in the Safe
While we’re home, there’s often cash, jewelry, family heirlooms, etc. that are out for our use and enjoyment. When you go away, however, it’s best to put all of that stuff into your safe (you have a safe, right?). Just in case your home is broken to, the bad guys won’t get to your truly valuable stuff.