Traveling is stressful enough without worrying about a possible break-in while you’re away. Keeping your home safe and secure during your absence is a common worry for many travelers. However, some basic vigilance can help prevent many break-ins. Many breaking-and-entering scenarios are not premeditated, but instead criminals finding opportunities left by homeowners. Criminals will look for things like obviously unoccupied homes, open garages, easy points of entry to a house, and so on. Using caution and planning ahead can help keep you from falling victim to a break-in while you’re away from home.
Here is a basic checklist of things to do (and not to do) before you travel:
- Make sure all doors and windows are locked. Double-check them just to make sure. Doors should be locked and bolted, windows should be closed and latched. Especially look in areas like the basement or attic, which can frequently be forgotten.
- Check all appliances (stoves, water heaters, fans, computers) and turn off anything that doesn’t need to be in use while you’re gone. Unplug the television and the coffee maker.
- Have a neighbor or friend check in frequently while you’re gone, or get someone to house-sit. Give them any emergency numbers or information they might need. Make sure you trust the right person with safeguarding your home while you’re away. Don’t just trust your home safety with anybody; make sure that neighbor is one you know well and have a rapport with.
- Arrange for the care of your pets — have that same friend or neighbor dog- or cat-sit, or board your pets to ensure their needs are met while you’re on vacation. If you have a family dog, their barks can sometimes be a deterrent to criminals, but there is no guarantee of the dog’s safety. Make sure your pets are looked after.
- If you have a security system (or the budget to install one), make sure you understand its use and capabilities. Inform the alarm company before you leave of your travel plans, and instruct anyone who will be stopping by to visit or house-sit on how to use the alarm system.
- Avoid leaving any emails, voice mails, Facebook posts, or other messages announcing your upcoming absence. You never know who might get those messages. Do inform the people who should be informed, but be careful about giving out this information.
- Cancel or suspend your mail or newspaper service while you’re away, or have someone pick up your mail and newspaper, so it doesn’t pile up around the house.
- Leave some lights on around the house, so your home isn’t dark, unlit, and obviously unoccupied. If you can, buy and install some timers for your lights, and program them to turn off and on at random intervals.
- Pre-pay any bills that might come due while you’re gone, not only to avoid any unpleasant shut-offs or nasty surprises when you get home, but so you don’t undermine other security efforts (like leaving your lights on).
- Store away any loose yard and household items, like hoses, grills, lawn ornaments, etc. If you have any vehicles that will be left behind, park them safely in the garage.
- Stow any irreplaceable valuables in a locked, hidden safe, or take them out of the house to a safety deposit box.
If you are truly concerned about home safety and the possibility of a break-in, install bars or grills on your windows, and document your valuable possessions in case something does happen while you’re gone.
Even if you can’t afford an alarm system, creating a “lived-in” atmosphere with light and sound, and having trusted neighbors or friends watch your house while you’re away, are all good ways to ensure your home remains safe and secure for your return.
Sidney writes with Design55. She frequently travels, meaning she has become somewhat of an expert at securing her home.