Secure Your Home With This Pre-Vacation Home Security Checklist
by Teja Van Wicklen
Leaving for a trip can be almost as stressful as vacationing is relaxing. Packing for yourself and the kids… arranging for pets, the mail, the garbage.
When we’re stressed, we forget things, and if we have kids, though life may be grand, stress is always looming. Distracted people are a criminal’s crème brulee.
According to the Insurance Information Institute the majority of burglaries take place in the summer months of July and August when people are away.
Criminals know their job. They study their “clients” and their territories. As a result they tend to know more about you than you know about them. Burglars are what we call Resource Predators – they want something, not someone. They want to get in and out fast and not linger. Burglars tend to be young males under 25. They choose homes that appear unoccupied, have easy entry and exit points and the greatest amount of cover from the street.
Let’s relieve some of that pre-vacation stress with a home security checklist. You may not be able to get to all of these things, but doing even one or two can take your home off the criminal radar so your return from vacation isn’t more stressful than it has to be.
1. Batten Down the Hatches – Windows and Doors
• Get a decent outside entry door, or if you’re handy, beef up the ones you have.
• Invest in good locks. Many cylinders can simply be re-keyed. Call the hardware store about the type you have. Learn more here about selecting good locks.
• The plastic slider that fits in your dog door won’t keep people out. I speak from experience. Eight years ago a thief kicked ours in. Don’t assume the door is too small for someone to enter; some criminals use kids to get inside and unlock the door.
• Install extra locks on outside doors. You don’t have to use two locks every day; just when you’re away for an extended period. The more time it takes to get into your house, the more likely burglars will move on. Lock the extra locks at night when you’re sleeping as well.
• If you have sliding doors, put metal or wooden rods in the runners.
• Garage doors are often a weak point. If there is a door to the house inside your garage, make sure it’s a strong one with a good lock or two. Keep any valuables locked up.
• Windows… lock them. Install bars if necessary to prevent easy access from rooftops. Or because your neighborhood warrants this level of extra security.
• Get an alarm system only if you are willing to maintain it. There is evidence that signage around the perimeter of your house notifying criminals of an alarm system is sometimes enough.
2. Use Sleight of Hand – Appear To Be Home When You’re Not
• Put some interior lights on timers. They’re not expensive and do a great job of making a house look occupied to anyone checking over a period of days.
• Install motion sensor lighting around the perimeter of your house.
• Ask a friend or neighbor to drop by a few times while you’re away – at least every other day if possible.
• Leave a car in the driveway.
• Call the post office and have your mail held until you return, or have someone pick it up every day. Nothing says, “I’m not home” like an overflowing mailbox.
• The same goes for newspaper delivery. Call and put your newspaper on vacation hold.
• Likewise for overgrown lawns. Have a service take care of it or put in a patio and garden that can fend for itself for a longer period of time.
3. Check These Miscellaneous No Nos
• Don’t leave ladders outside.
• If you have electrical outlets on the outside of your house, switch them off so a thief can’t use power tools to enter.
• Don’t leave notes on the outside of the house.
• Don’t leave any boxes in the garbage that advertise big ticket items you recently purchased.
• Don’t advertise that you’re gone by saying so on your home answering machine.
• Don’t hide a spare house key under a mat or in a bush.
• Don’t leave your laptop or expensive jewelry lying around. Get a safe. Bolt it to the floor at the back of your closet.
In some towns you can notify the police department that you’ll be away.
A final note. We tend to come home worn out, especially with kids in tow. If you unlock the door and hear an unfamiliar noise, don’t go in and investigate. Burglars often booby trap doors so something falls when the latch turns or the door opens. Call the police or at least have your finger on the call button and walk around the outside of the house first. Don’t do the movie thing and walk in, calling, “Hello? Is someone there?”
File these tips in your pre-vacation “to do” folder. Don’t make it easy for a burglar to ruin your vacation.
To go deeper into home security go to http://www.crimedoctor.com/home.htm
Teja Van Wicklen is founder of Devi Protective Offense and Mommy & Me Self Defense. She is a 25-year veteran martial artist, personal trainer, edged weapons instructor and EMT. The Mommy and Me Self Defense Mission is to reinvent women’s self defense as a series of life tools that can be easily integrated into daily life and early education to help women stay safe against considerable odds so they can raise strong and productive children who will never be victims or criminals.