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Secure Your Home During Holiday Travel
Dated: December 19 2018
During the holidays, many people travel away from home to visit family, enjoy time off work and school, or just to get away. Of course, alarm systems and security cameras are ideal, but here are a few more steps you can take to make your home a less attractive target for Grinch-like thieves and cold temperatures. Some of these suggestions are permanent additions that will help secure your home, whether you’re in it or not!
Don’t turn off the heat. It may be tempting to set the thermostat to off while you’re away to save a few dollars on the energy bill but doing so could cost more in the long run. If no one will be home (that includes pets), you don’t have to worry about keeping your home at a comfortable temperature, but leave the heat set to a minimum threshold to avoid a dramatic temperature drop inside. In the event of a hard freeze, warm air inside will help prevent pipes from freezing, and reduce the expansion and contraction that all building materials experience during temperature changes. Leave cabinet doors under sinks open to allow air to circulate freely in these areas, around the pipes. Before leaving, be sure to install covers on exterior faucets, purge any remaining water from security systems, and insulate pipes in garages or attics as well.
Disconnect your devices from the internet. Shut down all computers and unplug non-essential electronic devices. Doing so can help protect your data from hackers, and your pricey devices in the event of a power surge while you’re away. You may even reduce your power bill a little more this way.
For security purposes, do not leave a spare key anywhere outside of your home. Instead, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to keep a key and stop by every couple of days to check on the house for you. Have them bring in newspapers, packages, and mail so that it doesn’t pile up outside. Prior to leaving, have your friend stop by for a few minutes so that you can show them where the main water shut-off is located, should anything spring a leak, and where to disconnect power and gas (if applicable). Also have them change the curtains or blinds to keep up the appearance that someone is home and run faucets & flush toilets to keep water moving in the pipes. If you don’t have anyone who can check on the house for you, ask the post office and newspaper carriers to hold mail and deliveries while you’re away and consider turning off the water to your entire house from the main supply just before leaving. Regardless of whether you have someone checking in or not, notify your local police department so that they’re aware of your absence as they patrol the area.
Light it up. If you don’t already have motion-detector lights on your home’s exterior, consider installing some. These lights will come on if they detect someone lurking in the driveway or loitering on the porch, making their actions more visible to neighbors and police patrols. Criminals don’t like to be seen. Sometimes an unexpected light turning on is enough to scare away a would-be intruder. Inside, don’t leave a light on the entire time. Instead, invest in a few inexpensive light timers or smart-phone controlled outlets. Don’t set everything to come on all at once, or it will be too obvious and predictable (remember Home Alone?) Set lights in different rooms near your home’s exterior to turn on and off at various times to give the illusion that you’re still at home. Put a little thought into it- if you’re usually in the dining room in the early evening, set that light to come on around the same time. If you tend to head into the living room after, set the living room light to turn on just as the dining room light goes off. Some of the lights designed for young children that rotate or display images on walls and ceilings can be used to give the illusion of movement inside the home. As an added level of protection, add a radio to one or 2 of the timers and set it to a talk radio station. Or use the radio alarm feature. If a would-be thief can hear voices inside, they likely won’t stick around long enough to discern who’s voice they’re hearing and will be more likely to move on to an easier target.
Keep up appearances. Contrary to what we all do instinctively, sometimes closed blinds and curtains can be a bigger red flag than you might think. If you normally have your curtains or blinds wide open all day long, anyone who’s in the area frequently may notice when they’re staying closed. Consider leaving a couple open or at least partially open and obscure the view in other ways, like by placing a bulky piece of furniture near the window. Upstairs windows can be a good bet, since it’s harder to see inside them from the ground. Blinds can be left tilted open to where they appear open from outside, but someone outside could only see a portion of the floor or ceiling.
Just before leaving, take a few minutes to walk through your home. Check to be sure each window and door is locked, each faucet is completely off (unless you’re purposing leaving any on to drip for freeze prevention), etc. Lock up valuable heirlooms and critical information in a safe and hide it away to add another layer of protection to these items just in case. Place a stock or bar in the track of any sliding doors to reinforce them as well. Lock the door from your home into the garage as well. When it’s time to leave, set an alarm. The harder your home is to break in, the longer a thief would take trying, and this would increase the chances of them being caught in the act.
While you’re away, it’s tempting to share your fun (or brag) on social media, but this information can easily get into the wrong hands. Avoid sharing photos, checking in, or discussing your plans online anywhere. Share photos when you return instead. You may find yourself enjoying the moment even more if you aren’t constantly thinking of a creative caption for each picture, too.
Let’s face it, thieves love an easy target, so the harder you make it to get into your home undetected, the better. By doing these few things, you can relax a little more and enjoy your trip, knowing your home is as safe as it can be.
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Lauren is a lifetime North Texas resident and graduate from Texas Woman's University. She currently lives in Prosper and has been working in and around her community for the past six years, resulting ....