Home Safe Home - While You're Away
Planning a big vacation during the summer heat? Here are some new and old ideas about securing your Arizona house against intruders and preventing other problems that might occur while you're away.
Taking a little care in advance can make you feel more relaxed when you're at the beach or in the mountains. Here are 20 suggestions:
1 | Make sure your exterior doors have deadbolts.
A lot of people worry about burglars during the summer and they should be worried. The FBI says there is a 10 to 18 percent increase in home burglaries in July and August. So, of course you will lock the doors and windows when you leave; but before that, make sure the main exterior doors all have deadbolts with a one-inch throw. You can also install security screen doors as well – also with deadbolt locks -- for extra protection.
2 | Invest in a security system.
If you've been thinking of having a security system with alarms in your home, now might be a good time to install one. Be sure to turn it on when you leave.
3 | Upgrade to smart technology such as smart locks.
If you expect someone – like a repairman or relative – to pay a visit to your house when you're away or during an emergency, think about installing a smart lock so that you can open the door via smartphone.
4 | Give a friend your key.
Ask a neighbor or a friend to watch the house and leave a key with them for emergencies. Don't hide keys under doormats or pots near the door. It's too easy for burglars to figure out. You might even hire someone to stay in your house or visit it regularly.
5 | Have someone move your trash can.
Ask a friend or neighbor to take out your trash can on garbage pickup day to suggest that the house is still occupied.
6 | Plug into a timer.
Install timers on lights or TVs or other electronic devices so they go on and off while you're away. That can make intruders think you're still there. Choose timers that will turn things on and off at random times so the situation looks more realistic.
7 | Secure your car and garage.
When parking your car in an airport lot for a long time, don't leave keys or garage door openers inside the car. Be sure to securely lock your garage doors. To prevent anyone from intentionally or accidentally opening the door electronically, lock them from the wall mounted garage door opener. You can prevent the door from being manually opened by using the slide lock on the inside of your garage door located a third of the way up.
8 | Put a hold on your mail.
Stop mail service and any package delivery made at your door.
9 | Halt the presses.
Stop your newspapers. Have the delivery stopped a day or two in advance of your trip so you're sure that the newspaper got the message.
10 | Invest in a safe.
Keep valuables and spare cash in a safe of some kind in a non-obvious location in the house. If you don't have a safe, put valuables temporarily in an unusual place like a kitchen cabinet, for example. Don't forget where you left them. Maybe snap a photo of the hiding place with your phone.
11 | Be mindful of what you leave out.
Don't leave spare car keys in obvious places in the house. A burglar might break in, find a car key and drive off in the car you left at home.
12 | Ask a neighbor to tidy up for you.
If you will be gone a month or more, have someone clean up any debris or plant materials that build up around your house. Nothing is more obvious that a house is unoccupied than bird's nests being built around your front door.
13 | Maintain regular services.
Make sure to have the landscapers visit as usual.
14 | Keep things looking natural.
Keep blinds, shutters and shades in their usual positions. When everything is closed tightly, it's a sign that nobody will be home for a long time.
15 | Wait to post pictures.
While you're away, don't send photos to widely read social media sites. A photo of you in front of Westminster Abbey is an obvious announcement that your house is empty and vulnerable.
16 | Prep for the heat.
This isn't a good time to turn off the air conditioner. You want to raise the thermostat a little, but not higher than the mid-80s. Otherwise, the heat can be tough on your furniture and appliances. Your refrigerator would run constantly. You might also want to leave a five-gallon bucket of water somewhere in the house to maintain the humidity for the benefit of furniture and artwork.
17 | Shut off the fan.
Don't keep ceiling fans running. They don't cool anything off; they only provide cooling for you when moisture evaporates from your skin.
18 | Monitor your water.
Many homeowners worry about water pipes or water heaters leaking when they're away. You can buy one of the many leak detection devices on the market. Most are battery-powered and sell for $50 or less. These are small sensors you put on the floor or in a cabinet next to pipes or appliances like water heaters or refrigerators that sound an alarm you can hear if you're around. When you're away, you will want a sensor to alert your smart phone. Still you'll have to call a friend or neighbor to go to your house in the event of a malfunction.
19 | Have a whole-house shut off valve installed.
A better option than leak detectors? Have a whole-house water shutoff valve that you turn off when leaving your home for a long time. A plumber can install one outside the house so that the last thing you do before leaving is shut off the water. The valves can be set up so that they do not stop water to your indoor fire sprinkler system or your outdoor irrigation pipes in the yard. If you do this, turn down the hot water heater and disconnect the water softener.
20 | Notify the right people.
You may also want to notify the police or the security guards in a gated community that you will be gone.
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