We go on vacation for relaxation and recreation—but all that positive energy can be lost if we return home to a crime scene. It’s no coincidence that the summertime months, the most popular vacation times, also enjoy the highest rate of home burglaries.
Don’t let your vacation become an expensive bad memory! At Webb Insurance, we understand the need to safeguard your home and possessions, and we’re here to help.
The first line of defense is the homeowner. In this article, we’ll go over time-tested practices to discourage thieves and protect your premises.
1. Take Stock & Prepare
Secure Your Valuables
The first thing to do is to hide your valuables. Expensive items should be out of sight and safely secured.
- Conceal or cover expensive objects that might be seen through an outside window.
- If you don’t have a home safe or safe deposit box, this is a good time to get one.
- Lock up personal documents that might let a thief steal your identity. This includes financial papers, medical documentation, and social security cards.
- Update or purchase home owners insurance for protection if the worst happens.
Review your Locks
The best deterrent lock is a deadbolt, but make sure it is installed with 2-inch or longer screws that penetrate into hard material. Make sure each door that accesses the outside is well protected.
- Consider adding a Smart Lock to unlock door(s) remotely via smartphone. This lets you track neighbors or other permitted entrants while you’re away, and to cancel access as needed.
- Another handy device to install is a Video Doorbell, which sends an alert to your phone and activates a visual monitor to let you see who’s knocking. Some models have auto-recording and motion-detection features, too.
Look for Weaknesses
Do a walkabout to check on possible entry points that haven’t been sealed.
- Secure all other entry doors, preferably from the inside. Double-check garage or cellar doors. Turn off the automatic door opener if you’re going away for long.
- Window air conditioning units can be a vulnerability if the windows aren’t locked down.
- Remove spare keys from their hiding places; yes, even from the fake rock. Drop them off with a neighbor.
- Make sure your storm drains and gutters are clear, just in case.
Check to make sure your home security devices have good batteries. The best alert system won’t work if its battery is dead.
Buy a Fire Extinguisher
Hopefully you already have one. If not, no lectures: but this the time.
Freeze a Good Meal
No one wants to cook the first thing after coming home from vacation—but you’ll probably want to eat. Instead of going back out to a crowded restaurant, freeze a nice meal for your homecoming.
2. Enlist Outside Help
Ask a Friend or Neighbor to Check In
Don’t forget to give them a spare set of keys.
Install a Monitored Security System
A home security system monitors windows, doors and other access points, and alerts the police if there is an intrusion. There are options for monitoring the environment, too, such as smoke detection, flood sensors, and carbon monoxide detectors.
Use Security Cameras
A few discreet video cameras recording the premises during your vacation can mean peace of mind. Some models broadcast a live stream you can access in real time, so you can keep an eye on your pad from anywhere, anytime.
Suspend Mail and Newspapers
The tale-tale sign of an absent owner is an overflowing mailbox. Thieves watch for unclaimed mail. Have the Post Office suspend service while you’re away, or have a neighbor or friend pick it up.
3. Make a Lockdown Checklist: Last Steps before You Go
Your bags are packed and at the door, and you’re making the last rounds to lock things down. Here’s a checklist:
- If you have monitored Home Security, call the company and let them know the dates you’ll be out. Tell them who might be coming by, in case they need to verify.
- Adjust your thermostat to conserve energy and save money. Some automatic thermostats can be adjusted remotely.
- Put your water heater in low-powered vacation mode. 50 degrees is good, maybe 55 in cold weather.
- To prevent electrical problems, including surges and fires, unplug all your stuff. Your computer, too. Plugged-in appliances use electricity even when off, so this saves money, too.
- Place a fire extinguisher where it is visible and accessible.
- To prevent potential water damage, turn off the water supply valves to any plumbing appliances: faucets, washing machine, dishwasher, toilets, etc.
- Close up and lock the garage.
- Lock all windows and doors, even on the upper floors. If you have a pet door, seal that too.
- Clear out the mailbox one last time on your way out.
4. Camouflage Your Absence
One of the best ways to keep thieves away is to not let them know you’re gone. Here’s how:
Having a light on is a great way to make it look like someone’s home.
- Interior lights can be placed on inexpensive timers to switch on or off at normal times.
- Exterior lights not only make your home seem occupied, the illumination deters thieves.
- Motion detectors are another effective way to highlight the presence of a possible intruder.
Pro Tip: It’s even better to add a few timers for appliances like the teevee, radio, fans. Yes, this suggestion conflicts with the rule about unplugging everything; more proof that life is about compromise.
Landscape Maintenance: Cut the Grass
To make sure your lawn won’t give you away, cut it fresh before you leave, or have a service do it while you’re gone. If snow is in the realm of possibility, set up shoveling service, too.
Arrange to have a Car in Your Driveway
Leave a car parked at your house, or ask a neighbor to park in your driveway while you’re gone. This is one of the best deterrents, according to thieves.
5. Keep it Quiet
Don’t tell the world you’re going away. Here are things to remember:
- Don’t put your vacation plans online.
- Don’t engage with online geo-locators.
- Don’t post on social media with updates and pics showing your out-of-town status. If you must share your trip online, limit the circulation to friends.
- Ask anyone who knows about your vacation to avoid talking about it.
- Don’t leave notes for the postman or repair people explaining your long absence.
- Don’t change the position of your draperies and blinds.
- If practical, leave your voicemail message the same; anyway, don’t mention your return date.
It’s almost unfairly stacking the deck against burglars at this point, isn’t it?
Once you’re finished with this list, no sane criminals would attempt a burglary except by mistake: they would be videotaped, set off alarms, and alert security before getting through the deadbolts.
This is the point, of course—but things happen anyway. Home owners insurance is a vital part of protecting your hearth and home. It’s the final piece to guarantee a vacation you won’t mind coming back home from.
The award-winning Webb Insurance company is local to the Tampa area, and we’ll be glad to answer your questions!