Tuesday, December 6, 2011 / by Justin Hoffmann
Timed Lighting and Security
One of the most universally recommended ways to protect your home is a security system. There are a vast array of choices in home security systems, from simple alarms to high tech security measures attached to 24/7 on-call centers. Some programs can automatically send a police officer to your house if an alarm is triggered. If you go this route, dont wait until the last minute to have the system installed. Make sure to get your alarms put in at least a month before you leave so you can get used to it and comfortable with all of the programming.
Unfortunately some of these measures can be extremely costly. And with the expense of a trip, adding a security system isnt always in the budget. However, there are plenty of other options that are also effective. Lights can be a major deterrent to trespassers and they are much cheaper and easier to install than many security systems. A timer can be attached to indoor lights to make various lights go on and off within the house at specific times. Outdoor spotlights can also be used to keep main entrances well lit. And of course motion detector lights can be highly useful for illuminating any unusual movements. The lights may be enough to ward off burglars on their own, or at the very least alert neighbors that there is some sort of activity going on around your house.
Stop Mail and Newspapers
Theres nothing as blatant as a paper trail to scream that a house is empty. A pile of newspapers or a bursting mail box is a sure sign that no one is at home and a major plus for prowlers. There are a couple of options to keep these tell-tales quiet. You can make it all official by going to the post office and stopping your mail, and calling the newspaper to suspend your subscription temporarily. But some say that this is allowing strangers into your business and is a risk in itself. So if you are really concerned about privacy, then you can ask a trusted neighbor or close family member to do a daily collection of mail and papers for you. Even if you are having your mail stopped by the Post office, you never know when someone will pass by with a flyer, or political campaign materials. So even if you do opt to halt your mail, its still smart to ask someone nearby to clear any of these erroneous materials if they appear. That way you can rest assured that a random menu for a Chinese restaurant doesnt blow up your spot.
Make it Look Lived In
Even if there is no mail, and there are plenty of lights there are several other subtle signals to give away that the house is empty. In the winter, snow build up is a sure sign that no one is around. Its a good idea to talk to someone before you leave to make sure that if the sky dumps 2 feet of snow on your house that someone clears the walk and the drive way. In the summer an over grown lawn can be a similar giveaway so make sure its cut right before you leave or have someone in the neighborhood swing by with a lawn mower. If you have really good friends and neighbors, it can also be beneficial to have someone park their car in your drive from time to time. Even if you get a ride to the airport, leaving your own car in the driveway wont have the same effect. It is pretty obvious when a vehicle is stationary for a week so even that can counteract other protective measures you may have taken.
Empty and Unplug
Before you go away, make sure you go around the house to ensure a few key cleaning details are handled. Ok, so maybe coming home to a funky odor isnt as bad as finding out your TV has been stolen, but it is still extremely unpleasant. So its always a good idea to take proactive measures to make sure you dont return to a mess. By getting all trash out of the house and emptying the fridge of perishables like milk, fruit and vegetables you can actually relax when you get home. But its also important to unplug any unnecessary electronics and appliances such as blenders and microwaves. The only thing worse than having your house burglarized while youre on vacation is having it burn down. While most updated wiring eliminates the bulk of fire hazards, an unexpected power surge or spark could be a cause of a major disaster. Take the extra precaution of pulling non-essential plugs. Its just better to be safe than sorry.
Keep it Quiet
As much as you may need other people to help you pull off a successful trip, the more people you involve, the more risk you incur. While a good neighbor, family member or friend can be there for you to pick up mail and newspapers, shovel your walk or leave a car in your drive, these requests should be limited to a handful of people. When you make it public that youre going away it can also make you a target. A bigger mistake than telling friends and co-workers of your impending plans is telling your social media networks. Yes, its fun to tell everyone you know how much fun youre having at Disney. Who doesnt want to tweet about the glorious weather on your cruise? But when you do that, you broadcast to the world that, not only are you having the time of your life, your home is completely unoccupied. The best thing to do is stifle the urge to update your status until youve returned from your adventure. All of your friends will still be there and eager to hear your stories when your home is once again safe under your watchful eye.
Going on vacation is one of the great joys in life. Taking a break from regular lives is crucial for everyones mental health. But if we dont take the right steps to ensure that everything will be as we left it when we return, then even the best trip can be plagued by regret. Theres no place like home, so make sure you do everything you can to protect it while youre gone.