Update Your Home-Security Plans, Then Enjoy Your Vacation

Lock and keyNothing will kill your post-vacation bliss like returning home to find that burglars got inside while you were away.

Don’t let this happen to you. Before you head out of town, take the time to review your home-security plans and make changes where needed. A few common-sense steps will go a long way to keep you and your belongings safe and secure.

  1. Stop mail and newspaper delivery, and ask a friend or trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re away. Give this person a key and ask that he or she water your plants and cut the grass as needed. Make sure you leave a copy of your itinerary and your contact information in case of emergencies.
  2. If you’re going to be away for a week or longer, notify the police. They may be able to drive by your house while on patrol. Tell the police if someone will be staying in your home or making security checks, so no one will be surprised.
  3. If you don’t have a home-security system, consider purchasing a digital video camera that connects to the Internet. Consumer Reports recently gave high marks to the $199 Dropcam Pro from Nest Labs, which can stream high-definition video to a phone, a tablet, or a computer with a 130-degree field of view and 8X zoom. It can also alert you of motion activity or abrupt changes in light levels, and it allows two-way conversations using a built-in microphone and speaker.
  4. You may be temped to close your curtains to prevent people from peering inside your home to see whether you’re there, but closed curtains also stop those who aim to help — the police, your neighbors or friends — from seeing inside your house. Leave your curtains as you usually keep them when you’re home, but move expensive items like computers and home-theater equipment out of sight.
  5. Use a timer to turn lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule. The only thing worse than leaving your home totally dark during the evening is to leave the lights on all night long.
  6. Maybe you keep a window unlocked to allow your cat easy access, or you never bother to turn the deadbolt on the kitchen door. Neither is a good idea when you’re going away on an extended trip.
  7. Unplug your television, computer, toaster oven, and other appliances to protect them from power surges. Do this to save power as well. According to the Consumer Energy Center, many appliances use power even when they’re turned off. And deactivate your garage door opener to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote.
  8. Burglars are expert at finding spare keys you may have hidden under a rock or doormat, above the door frame, or inside a flower pot. Give it instead to the friend or neighbor mentioned above.
  9. Do not leave a portable GPS device in your car if you use long-term parking at the airport. It will alert car thieves that you’re not home and give them a convenient map to your house.
  10. Do not announce travel plans on the Internet, including social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. You don’t know who is reading your “private” postings. And be aware of who’s around when you discuss your trip in restaurants and even at work. Make sure that your children are discreet, too.

Now, go off on your trip and relax!

(Photo: Flickr/Hakan Dahlstrom)