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 Caribbean 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 a 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.
1. Ask a Friend or Family Member to Help
A simple, but 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. Ask him or her to drive by your home once every day or so and check on the place. He or she can bring collect your mail, feed your cat, water your plants, rake your leaves, etc. He or she should also have your contact information in case of emergencies. If you have more than one person visiting your house while you’re away tell them about each other!
2. Don’t Tip Off Criminals
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: Would you announce to a crowd that you will be leaving your house unattended for two weeks this December? Think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on social media.
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.
3. Do Tip Off the Police
Consider notifying the police if you’re going on vacation. It’s possible the police may go out of their way to drive by your house while on patrol, especially if you live in a small town. If you have a security alarm, leave a house key and the code with someone you trust, and provide the police and alarm company with their name and phone number. You may also want to contact your local neighborhood watch program if there’s one in your area.
4. 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.
5. 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. 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.
6. Stop Your Mail
Either place a “stop” order on mail and newspapers, or arrange to have a friend or neighbor pick up your mail while you’re away. Otherwise, a week’s worth of papers piled on your front step could signal to criminals that this particular homeowner is out of town. It’s easy to put your mail on hold at the post office.
7. 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.
8. Remove Your Spare Key
If a criminal figures out you’re away on vacation, it’s likely that he or she will check your porch for a spare key. So reach under the mat, into the mailbox, above the door frame or into the flower pot and remove your spare key before you leave on your vacation.
9. Install a Home Alarm and Video Surveillance System
A home alarm and video surveillance system can give you peace of mind when you travel, allowing you to view your home via your smart phone and also alerting you or a security patrol should any would-be intruders attempt a break-in.