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15 Tips to Protect Your Home While You're Away

We hate to be Debbie Downer, but being prepared is always a good idea. Traveling is stressful enough. The last thing you need to worry about while you're on vacation is the security of your home. Going through a few steps to protect your house and property before you leave will give you peace of mind so you can enjoy your trip. Here's a check list of items we recommend while making your plans and just before you leave:

In advance of your trip ...

1. Take inventory of your electronics and personal items, such as jewelry. Make a video of each room, focusing on expensive possessions. Also take photographs of the items. In the unfortunate (and hopefully unlikely) event that your home should be burglarized while you're away, this practice will make things a little easier when dealing with the insurance company. Be sure to list the makes and models of TVs, DVDs, stereo equipment, cameras, computers, etc. and place it in a folder with your insurance documents. It's also a good idea to e-mail this list to yourself and perhaps a trusted friend or relative.

2. Trim bushes away from your home. Thieves often use this as coverage to hide from the prying eyes of neighbors and passers-by as they break in through a window.

3. Your entry doors should have either a deadbolt or chain to deter burglars in addition to a standard lock.

4. Install motion sensor lights outside your home. There are battery operated types that require no electrical wiring and are a cinch to put up. You should have one by your garage door(s), and front and back entries. Just make sure they're high enough off the ground (8' minimum) to be out of reach so that the bulbs cannot be easily removed.

5. Attach timers to several lights in a few different locations around your home, such as the family room, kitchen, and bedroom. Have them go on/off at various times. Some timers allow you to set the on/off time differently from one day to the next, even at random, which is a really good idea.

6. Get a nanny cam and have it directed where it would capture the intruder upon entry. Just make sure it's not obvious so that the thief doesn't see and destroy it. Many models allow you to view your home remotely via the internet in real time.

7. You want to give the impression that you are home. Make arrangements with a trusted neighbor to:

  • Pick up your mail and your newspapers. I have three cats and the cat care person (who works at our local veterinary hospital) takes them in for me when she comes to feed the cats. While some sources recommend calling the post office and newspaper office to have the mail and papers temporarily halted, I am always a little skeptical about alerting anyone with whom I'm not personally acquainted about my absences. After all, you don't know who works there and has access to the information that your home is vacant.

  • Shovel your driveway and walk in winter (or hire a service). Also ask them to drive in your driveway to leave tire tracks.

  • If you are going to be away for more than a few days, ask them to rake the leaves in the fall.

  • Have them walk around the house and check things out.

  • Water your plants (not for security reasons, but it's depressing to come home to dead flowers and foliage).

8. Of course, an alarm system is always a great idea, especially if you live in a densely populated area or city. Law enforcement experts claim that homes without security systems are three times as likely to be burglarized as those with one.

9. Do NOT post your upcoming travel details on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media site. It's like advertising that you aren't home, and who knows who reads this stuff. You can always share your photos with your peeps when you return from your trip.

10. Do NOT leave a message on your voice mail stating that you will be out of town. Sounds like common sense, but people do it ... all ... the ... time.

Before you leave ...

11. Let your local police department know that you are going to be away. This way, they may drive by your house more frequently and be on the look-out for anything unusual.

12. If you're going to be away for more than a week, turn off the water inside your house.

13. Check that all doors and windows are securely closed and locked. Remember to lock the door between your garage and your house.

14. Do NOT leave your TV or a radio on while you are gone. Burglars may 'scope out' a house or several houses on a block before actually breaking in, to see which one(s) is/are the easiest target(s). The glare of a TV or noise from a radio at 3 a.m. is a dead give-away to thieves who are checking your house.

15. Place a broom handle or a long, thin piece of wood in the track of sliding glass doors so they cannot be jimmied open.

While you're traveling ...

Be sure to purchase a nice gift for people who have watched over things in your absence if you are not paying them for their service. Alternatively, a gift card to the person's favorite coffee shop or store upon your return is a thoughtful gesture and always appreciated.

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