Vacation Security Checklist
Secure your valuables while you're away
Once the kids are out of school for break or summer vacation, thousands of Americans plan an escape to get out and see the world. Before you hit the road, make sure you cover all your bases to batten down the hatches at home.
The hazards that exist when you are home, like burglary and fire, are just as common when you are away. A window inadvertently left unlocked or an appliance with a frayed cord can result in huge financial and emotional losses for your family.
Protecting your home from the opportunistic thief means creating an illusion that you are home and everything is normal.
- Check your insurance policy and make sure it is up to date. If the worst happens, you don't want to wonder if it's going to cover your losses. A copy of your household inventory should be stored with the rest of your important papers.
- Secure important papers and valuables. Anything that cannot be easily replaced such as personal, legal, and financial records, expensive jewelry, and family photos should be stored in a secure location. Include blank checks and passports. If you are writing the Great American Novel or have five years of genealogy research on your computer, make a backup and store it with your other records. A fire-proof floor safe in a closet may work or use a safe deposit box. Last but not least, shred anything that contains ID information that won't be secured but which you don't need to retain; A talented crook only needs one set of social security numbers to steal your identity.
- Hockable valuables like electronic equipment and computers should not be visible from uncovered windows. Thieves think in terms of risk to benefit ratios just like any business person. If they can't see something that they can easily convert to cash, they may move on to the next prospect.
- Nosy neighbors can be the best deterrent to break ins. Alert your neighbors or ask a trusted friend to keep an eye on your home. Provide a spare key for emergencies if appropriate and numbers where you can be reached.
- Get a housesitter if you can, especially if you plan to be away two weeks or more. For less than two weeks, a trusted neighbor's responsible teen could be perfect for taking care of pets, watering plants, putting out the garbage bins and bringing them back in, and generally supervising your home.
- Many people now board their dogs at kennels while they are gone, but if you have someone you trust who is willing to take care of the house, they may also be willing to care for your dog. Animals generally prefer being in their own territory and your dog can be counted to protect it. Take reasonable precautions to provide for your dog's well being and he will provide an efficient alarm system. (A housesitter can cost less than kenneling your pets.)
- Burglar proof your home. Put as many obstacles between a would-be thief and your home to increase his risk.
- Keep plants trimmed and below the windows and away from doors.
- Motion sensors that light porches discourage burglars, too.
- Lock gates to the back yard; use a padlock if necessary.
- Lock all doors and windows.
- Place a dowel the width of the door in the track for all sliding glass doors if you don't have track locks.
- Put mail on hold unless you have a secure mail slot that allows mail to drop freely inside your home in a location that is not visible from the outside.
- Suspend newspaper deliveries.
- Call the police and let them know you will be gone and for how long.
- Program lights, TV, and radio on a timer system to follow your regular routine.
- Park a car in the driveway. If you're driving, ask a neighbor to park in your driveway. If it's your car, leave a key with the caretaker and have them move it every few days to create an illusion of activity. Make sure you store the garage door opener in a secure location inside the house; don't leave it in the car.
- Forward land line calls to your cell phone. Just because it rings doesn't mean you need to answer. On the house phone, leave a message on the answering machine that says "we're busy" or that you are screening calls. Never tell a caller you are gone regardless of whether it's an hour or a month.
- If your yard and garden are not already on a sprinkler system, set one up with timers. Two weeks in the hottest part of the summer can result in dead plants and a house that is obviously deserted. Hire a reputable lawn service and have everything trimmed and mowed while you're gone. It's a treat to come home and not have to deal with it right away.
- Store all ladders and tools and lock all storage sheds and the garage.
- Whoever is watching your home needs to know any services you've hired, such as the lawn service, so they will know who shouldn't be there. Thieves often disguise themselves as service people to blend in.
- Turn off all unnecessary appliances and make sure everything that draws current is unplugged. The only exceptions would be lights, TV, radio, fridge, and freezer. It will save money and energy too.
- Leave the air conditioner on. No one with any sense is going to leave the AC on when they leave town. Set it at a higher, energy-saving temperature, but don't turn it off completely.
- Don't forget to set the alarm system. Make sure your caretaker has the code and knows how to use it. Rehearse, especially if they are unused to such a system. (Don't forget to change the code when you get home!) Also, contact the alarm company and let them know you are leaving and who has the authority to enter your home in your absence.
- Make a personal departure checklist. It's important to allow enough time to systematically go through your checklist before you leave and make sure everything is done.
If you've been thinking about adding an alarm system to improve your home security, now might be the time. Find a licensed professional security contractor though UpdateRenovate