Our family has a few long trips planned this summer, and though our neighbors will be keeping an eye on things while we're gone, I want to make sure our home is safe. Can you provide a checklist of home security pre-vacation to-dos?
Good question, especially as we approach a hot season for home burglaries. Of the more than two million home break-ins every year, most happen in July and August when vacationing families leave their houses empty and vulnerable.
Here is a home security checklist you should attend to indoors and out before heading off to Vacationland:
Shut down your home's water supply. If it's difficult to get to, a plumber can add an extension to put it within reach.
Drain all toilets and tanks.
Turn off your water heater.
To prevent electrical fires, switch off all non-essential electrical circuit breakers in your home's electrical box, which translates to anything other than your heating system, security system, and outdoor lighting. Well before you're under pressure to decipher which are which, take time to label circuits with small colored dot stickers, using green for nonessential and red for essential.
Unplug all appliances, large and small.
Set your air conditioner to 80 degrees for a weekend getaway; if you'll be gone longer, shut it down entirely.
Put lights on timers in main living areas to simulate occupancy.
Turn off the ringer on your phone and keep your everyday answering message in play.
Leave blinds and curtains in normal positions wherever possible.
To optimize your home security, stow important papers, jewelry, and other items in a home safe or safe deposit box.
Turn off your computer. Put away or shred bills and receipts that risk identity theft.
Activate your alarm system, notifying the security company of your days away and providing interim contact information.
Lock all doors and windows. This may sound elementary, but all it takes is one of them ajar to welcome an intruder.
Finish all major yard work before you go, with special trimming attention given to trees and shrubs near windows and entries, which burglars can easily hide behind. Then put away all yard equipment and tools.
Hire someone to mow the yard and water the lawn, plants and other vegetation.
Put all outdoor lighting on timers, and add motion sensitive lamps in dark pockets as well as natural pathways.
Remove secret keys from their hiding spots, and provide only one duplicate key to the person who'll be in charge while you're out of town.
Arrange for daily mail, newspaper, and parcel collection. Invite a neighbor or family member to park their car in your driveway for the duration.
Inform your local police department of your plans so that they can add your home to their vacation watch list and maintain your summer home security. Be sure to include contact information for your interim caretaker and you.