Have you already made travel plans for an upcoming holiday vacation? Are you going out of town to visit relatives for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Or have you made some major plans to go to an exotic location - like Hawaii or Cancun - someplace warm and relaxing?
If so, what plans have you made to ensure your home is well protected from a burglary or fire while you are away?
For a lot of people protecting your home sometimes falls last on the list and by then it may be late. Over my 20 years as a home security specialist with ADT I have met homeowners who put their security system in after they came home from vacation - when they found the door kicked in and their home ransacked.
Therefore, I am a big proponent of encouraging homeowners to be proactive about home security protection. When you invest the time, energy and resources into building a solid level of protection in and around your home, you stand a better chance of NOT becoming the victim of a home burglary/home invasion robbery crime.
So what should you do to make sure your home is protected not just while you are on vacation but 24/7 - 365 days a year? For people who have already protected their home with a 24/7 alarm service - I salute you. You can go on vacation with tremendous peace of mind knowing if something happens help is immediately on the way. For those who don’t have a security system you must rely upon neighbors, friends and/or family members to come and check your home while you’re away.
Here are some home security and safety tips to keep your home secure while away on holiday vacation:
1. If you don’t already have one, install a quality home security system with 24/7 monitoring for burglary, fire and low temperature protection. If you already have security but not these services, check with your alarm company tp see about adding. A fire can devastate a home. And if the electricity gets knocked out due to weather in below freezing temperatures causing the furnace to go out, pipes freeze and sometimes burst causing flooding. A low temperature detector would alert someone very quickly that there is a problem.
2. Tighten up and harden the outside of your home. Look at the deadbolts on each door and determine if they are strong enough to withstand a forced intrusion. Check the bolt on the deadbolt - 2-3″ bolts are recommended. If you’ve never changed your locks/deadbolts and they are over 10-15 years, it may be time to invest in solid quality deadbolts. Doors are usually the first point of break-in. Make your doors impenetrable to an intruder. When you leave for vacation, make sure you’ve locked all doors. Common sense I know, but many people leave doors unlocked.
3. Check windows to make sure locks are adequate and that they are locked when you leave. Recommendation is to reinforce the windows with dowel rods that can be placed in the track of the windows to prevent lifting or sliding if someone breaks the window to unlock. If the burglar has to work with any effort at getting into the home, chances are the burglar will give up and move to an easier home. The key is to make your home impenetrable to an intrusion.
4. Be part of a neighborhood watch group. It’s a good idea to get to know neighbors on either side of your home and across the street then watch out for one another. When you get ready to leave, let 2-4 of your close neighbors know so they can keep an eye on your home. If you’re not expecting anyone other than a family member checking your home, let them know that and give them a number to call just in case anything suspicious happens. If a U-haul pulls up in front of your home and starts unloading your valuables, that should be cause for concern and to notify police. When neighbors help each other by keeping an eye out, it helps reduce crime in your area.
5. Have the newspaper and mail delivery stopped before you leave or have a trusted neighbor pick these up. A stuffed mail box or newspaper box is a telltale sign that no one is home.
6. Install motion sensor lights on the outside - garage, front, back and sides of your home provide the best coverage. When these lights come on at night, it gives the impression someone is home. My recommendation is to also connect the motion lights to a lamp(s) on the inside which will come on once the motion lights come on. This looks as though someone really is at home. Most burglars don’t want to confront the homeowner so if they think someone is home, they may move on as well.
7. Check your electrical plugs, Christmas lights and all outlets before leaving. Unplug as much as you can to alleviate having a fire while gone. Check your battery smoke detectors and replace batteries accordingly. If no one is home and a battery smoke detector goes off, no one knows. If you have a monitored smoke detector, your alarm company can alert fire authorities and others and possibly prevent a major fire disaster. Every year we hear of fire destroying homes and families due to negligence.
8. If you have an alarm system, best sure to test your system from time to time and especially before leaving on vacation. Make sure your emergency contact list is up-to-date and let your alarm company know the dates you will be gone. That way if they get an alarm they can dispatch authorities immediately. Anyone having access to your home and your alarm should no how to work the alarm, have the 4-digit code and no the password in case they accidentally trip the alarm system. That way you avoid a false alarm.
9. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you might have someone clear the sidewalk or your driveway if you get a major dump of snow during the holidays. When snow builds up in the driveway or sidewalk, this can give the appearance that no one is at home. And that’s what burglars really like - no one at home.
10. Pull curtains and mini-blinds so people can’t see inside. Don’t display valuables near windows for burglars to see. This may be too tempting if someone is really desperate. Set lights and lamps up on timers to give the impression someone is home.
We all seem to be on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Community Sites. Be careful how much information you give about being away from home on vacation. You never know who your “friend” may be on Facebook or Twitter and there have been many cases where a home has been robbed not long after information was “tweeted” or “shared” on a social media site. Use precautions about what you disclose about being gone, on vacation or personal information. We don’t always “know” our social media friends that well.
Keep in mind that burglaries tend to increase during the holidays just because people have presents, valuable gifts, cash and other things that burglars want. But in today’s volatile economic climate there’s more desperation from people who are out of work, don’t want to work, or on drugs. As homeowners it is up to us to secure our home. Sometimes that means we have to invest a little more but in the long run keeping your home and family safe and secure is worth the investment and peace of mind.
Your home security and personal safety should become a 24/7 habit - a mindset. Not that you should become paranoid but realistic in knowing that crime is encroaching upon even the nicest, once the safest neighborhoods. Being proactive and doing your part to protect your home and family whether you are home or on vacation means you’ll enjoy your vacation more and have a better sense of peace of mind.