A guide to home safety for when you go on holiday
You’re sitting on a Caribbean beach; sunning yourself and enjoying a fruity cocktail. Then you suddenly sit bolt upright. Did you check the front door was locked properly? Will anyone stumble across the spare key hidden under the flowerpot?
There’s no point going on holiday if you’re going to ruin it by spending the whole time worrying. This guide will tell you how to protect your home whilst you’re away, so you can swim in those crisp, blue waters without a care in the world.
Ask a friend to look after the house
Keeping the house empty for two weeks may seem a bit daunting and there’s always a risk that burglars will figure out that you’re away if the grass in your garden starts to grow out of control. To avoid this, ask a trusted friend or neighbour to take care of everything while you’re away. They don’t have to come round every day, just often enough to keep the garden trim and your indoor plants watered. Burglars are smart and even a wilting flower can give away the fact the house is currently unoccupied.
Don’t post details of your trip online
It might be very tempting to boast about your upcoming three-week cruise to your Facebook friends or Twitter followers, but the reality is that someone might take advantage of this information. After all, it’s not all that hard for a criminal to find out where you live. Even if you are sure that your profile is set so only your friends can see it, it’s still not worth the risk. According to crime statistics from the Home Office, only half of all burglaries are committed by complete strangers. The other half involve someone the victim knows. Just let your close friends and family know you’re going away offline and save all the online boasting for when you come back.
Leave your house looking as it usually would
You might think it’s a good idea to draw all the curtains before you go away, but if you usually have them open during the day, you should leave them this way. Closed curtains all day, every day for two weeks straight is going to look strange and will make it pretty obvious that you’re not around. However, it’s a good idea to keep any valuables out of sight. Stand outside and look through your windows so you can see through the eye of a potential burglar. For example, is your laptop in view? If so, move it.
A dark house at night looks odd too, so it’s a good idea to invest in some timers for your lights. Just program them to come on for a couple of hours in the evening to make it look like someone is at home. Again, make sure the timers can’t be seen through a window, otherwise your crafty efforts will be scuppered.
Unless you’re having someone come round to your house every day to feed the cat, it’s a good idea to cancel any milk or newspaper deliveries you’re signed up to. Not only are you wasting money, but numerous bottles of milk are going to look suspicious and could attract a keen-eyed criminal.
Remove any spare keys and ensure doors are locked
No one should ever leave a spare key under the mat or flowerpot; so if you do, remove it. Give the spare key to a friend instead, so they can access your home if there happens to be an emergency.
It may seem obvious to double-check that your doors are properly locked, but 73 per cent of burglars break into a house by going through the door. In three per cent of these cases, the doors aren’t even locked! Don’t just think about securing the front door either. Any back doors or garage doors also need your care and attention. Invest in a good lock for your shed too. Not only are your garden tools valuable, they can also be used to break into your home.
Ensure all your windows are also secure and in good condition. Preferably, your window handles should have locks on them, but make sure you put the keys in a safe place.
Invest in an outdoor light and alarm system
An outdoor light, which turns on when someone approaches the house, is a good way to keep burglars at bay. Although 44 per cent of burglaries happen during the day, the majority take place at night and criminals do not want to be seen. If they approach your house and a light comes on, they’re hardly going to continue standing around trying to find a way in. Make sure you have another light near your back door, as they might try to break in there instead.
Alarm systems are also a great deterrent. Figures from the Home Office show that 84 per cent of burglars avoid breaking into homes that have alarms fitted. They may come with a pricey upfront cost, but at least you can be sure that all your electronics, favourite pieces of jewellery and family heirlooms are protected.
If you live in the city there’s even more reason to ensure your home is secure before going away, as people who live in urban areas are twice as likely to be burgled compared with those who reside in the countryside. You don’t want to undo the all the good that holiday did you by coming back to a home that’s been broken into - so don’t give burglars the chance.
Author: George Mitchell