There is an average of 2.5 million burglaries annually in the U.S., with break-ins increasing by 10.5% during the summer months.
By Pete Alfano
Road trip! Or perhaps your family plans to fly to your destination for a summer vacation. In either case, when putting together a checklist for packing, make another list to ensure your house is protected while you are away, so you will be reasonably assured it will still be “home sweet home” upon returning.
There is an average of 2.5 million burglaries annually in the U.S., with break-ins increasing by 10.5% during the summer months. However, this should not discourage anyone from taking a well-earned vacation. There are many things you can do to safeguard your home from burglaries and other issues. The ideal situation is to have a house sitter, someone you trust who will live in your house while you are away. A house sitter can bring in your mail, care for your pets and plants, and respond to unexpected problems.
The next best option is to ask a neighbor to keep a watchful eye on your house. Give your neighbor a key and ask them to collect your mail, water indoor plants, and pick up any packages that may be delivered. Ask them to call the police if there is any suspicious activity at your house, and let the police know in advance that you will be away.
If a neighbor is not an option, make your house look like someone is always home. A security system with lights, motion sensors, and a camera that detect when someone approaches the front or back door is an excellent place to start. And don’t forget to set the alarm when rushing out the door with suitcases and kids in tow.
Put lights and televisions on timers, staggering them to turn on and off at different times on different days of the week, but unplug computers and other unessential appliances and technical equipment. Double-check that all the windows are closed and locked, and shades and blinds are drawn enough to make it difficult to see inside. Pause your mail delivery if there is no other alternative.
Remember to turn off the valve that supplies water to the washing machine in the laundry room. It is a common source of leaks and potentially flooded floors. If you haven’t installed a leak detection system, which can cost as much as $1,500, consider turning off the main water valve, usually located on the street. Also, consider purchasing an electronic rain sensor to monitor your irrigation system. Mow the lawn the day before you leave so it will not look overgrown to someone scoping out the house. If you have a yard and/or pool service, make sure they can get entry to your backyard. However, you don’t have to tell those service providers that you will be away for a week or more.
Some experts suggest turning off the air conditioning while you are away, but in hot, often humid climates like Texas, that may invite more problems, such as mold and insects, as the humidity in the house increases. Electronics may also be damaged without cooling in the summer months, and appliances like refrigerators will have to work harder. Instead of turning off the air conditioning, set the thermostat to 78 degrees.
In the age of technology, another issue has arisen that can make your house vulnerable. Yes, it is social media. Do not post or tweet that you are going on vacation. And don’t post photos while you are away. Wait until you return. People who wring their hands and talk about the good old days when they didn’t have to lock their doors need to remember there was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., informing people you would not be home.
If you are driving your vehicle to your destination or the airport, pack suitcases while the car is in the garage or the backyard. There is no need to advertise by placing bags in the driveway or outside the front door. This will not be possible if you take a taxi or rideshare to the airport but be as discreet as possible. No one can guarantee your house will be completely safe, but these steps will help you enjoy your getaway much more.