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How to keep your home safe while you’re on vacation

June 22, 2015

By Paul Brucker

Summer’s here and the time is right to go on a vacation, relax and have fun – knowing that your home is safe while you’re way. Although home burglaries increase by more than 10% during the summer months, the good news is that 90% of home break-ins can be prevented if you take some simple precautions, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Fortunately, there are a host of tried-and-true protective steps you can take, from investing in a home security system to taking advantage of a new wave of apps designed for smart phones and tablets. The key is to give the impression to outsiders that, during your vacation, you’re still at home. 

Consider these 11 safeguards:

  1. Staying secure with a security system. You can keep away burglars without a home security system, but houses with one are three times less likely to be broken into whether you’re on a trip, or just away at work. Also, some insurance companies will offer you a homeowner’s discount up to 15% for having one. These systems provide remote monitoring, which signals the security system provider to contact your police or fire department if there’s a disturbance. Before your trip, contact the system provider to let them know you’ll be out of town and make sure that your security system yard signs and window decals are well displayed.
     
  2. Let there be light and noise. Burglars don’t like be caught in the spotlight or seen. Keep your outside lights on while away. Don’t have motion sensitive lights around your home? Consider installing some. Another good deterrent: Timers for inside lights, radios and TVs that go on and off at different times.
     
  3. Lock up. Did you know that 28% of burglaries happen when the crook enters through an open or unlocked window or door? Be sure your doors and windows have good locks and use them! One-inch deadbolts are great for exterior doors. Plus, if you have a sliding glass door, secure it with a bolt lock or metal rod in its track.
     
  4. Taking care of your phone. A loud, constantly ringing phone can signal you’re not home. Turn down the ringer on your phone and adjust your answering machine so it picks up on sooner. Consider forwarding your calls to your cell phone.
     
  5. Place holds on your mail and your newspaper.
     
  6. Be safe with a safe or a safety deposit box. Don’t leave your jewelry, cash, sensitive documents and valuables lying around. Lock them up in a safe or a safety deposit box at your bank
     
  7. Stay mum on your social networks. Don’t broadcast the fact that you’re traveling on your social media sites. Make sure your kids don’t, as well. Wait until you return home before you write about your trip or post photos. Note: some insurers are now denying break-in claims if they learn the travelers posted while on vacation.
     
  8. Avail yourself of a friendly neighbor. Have a neighbor you trust? Ask him or her to keep a keen eye on your place. Share contact information so your neighbor can get in touch with you while you’re gone. 
     
  9. Keep your lawn mowed. If you are going to be gone for more than a week, hire somebody to mow your lawn each week.
     
  10. Keep expensive equipment away from windows. Don’t advertise that you have pricey TVs and other valuable things in your home. Keep your blinds and drapes shut to block them from view or move them away from sight.
     
  11. Take advantage of home security apps. Today, smart phones and tables can help keep your home secure. There are hundreds of security apps to choose from and many are free and simple to use. Some give you real-time alerts on your phone. Others turn your computer into a surveillance system. Today, 45% of smart phone users have connected to home security apps and 29% use them daily, according to U.S. Cellular survey. Read about some of them.