Your suitcase is packed, you’ve lined up a rental car, and you’ve arranged for a neighbor to feed your pets and water your plants. But while preparing for your long-awaited vacation, did you remember to take the precautions necessary to keep your home safe while you’re away? Here are seven ways to ensure that your abode stays disaster- and robbery-free while you’re gone.
MAKE SURE IT LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE’S HOME …
To avoid becoming another crime statistic, take steps to make sure it looks like someone’s still at home. Set timers on lights, radios, and televisions so they’ll automatically turn on at varied times during the morning and evening. Make sure your grass is freshly cut. Have someone park their car in your empty driveway. Position window blinds and curtains like normal—just make sure they aren’t exposing expensive home furnishings or appliances. And while you’re at it, ask a neighbor to collect your mail for you, and arrange to stop your newspaper delivery.
… BUT DON’T FORGET TO LOCK UP.
It’s a no-brainer to lock all your doors before going on vacation, but don’t neglect to secure other openings, like pet doors or mail slots, to prevent burglars from reaching in with a tool and unlocking the door. And if you have an automatic garage door, consider disconnecting the electronic opener and placing a padlock on the garage-door track instead.
WATCH WHAT YOU SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
We know, we know: It’s super tempting to share details or photos of your vacation via social media posts. But even though you’re making all your friends jealous with that barely-filtered picture of a bright blue lagoon, you’re also revealing to potential thieves that you’re far away from home.
To keep burglars at bay, refrain from publicly sharing any details of your trip until you return. If you can’t resist, here’s a compromise: Remove geotags from social media posts with a metadata removal tool, or switch off the geotagging feature on your phone. Also, make sure your sharing settings are switched to private or “Friends Only.”
ENLIST YOUR NEIGHBORS.
Tell a trusted neighbor that you’ll be gone for a while, and ask them to keep an eye on your house. Instruct them to call the authorities if they see anything suspicious or dangerous-looking occurring on the premises. And for worst-case scenarios, provide them with your vacation contact and a spare key.
CONTACT YOUR ALARM COMPANY (OR FOOL BURGLARS INTO THINKING YOU HAVE ONE).
Having an alarm system installed in your home can bring you more than peace of mind; it could also help you qualify for an extra discount on homeowners insurance.
Don’t have an alarm system? Fool burglars by hanging fake security company signs, and if you want to go all out, consider installing fake security cameras.
REMOVE YOUR SPARE KEY.
We’re sure you thought of a really clever place to hide your spare key that isn’t underneath a flowerpot, above a doorframe, or below a fake plastic rock. But chances are, a seasoned criminal will search long and hard to find it. To avoid handing a thief your home’s possessions on a silver platter, simply remove the key before you leave and drop it off at a neighbor’s for safekeeping.
UNPLUG ALL APPLIANCES.
To avoid electrical fires or power surges, make sure to unplug all unnecessary non-timed appliances—think TVs, coffee makers, lamps, etc. Also, make sure your smoke alarms are in working order, and have a fire extinguisher on hand in case a house sitter needs to extinguish a blaze. Since disasters can strike even the most well-prepared household, consider purchasing homeowners or renters insurance.
Next article: 5 Smart Gadgets to Better Secure Your Home
Originally published July 2016.