Leaving Your House Secure When You Go On Holiday
- Beyond cancelling the milk
You've cancelled the milk and turned off the water - but apart from crossing your fingers and hoping, what else can you do to make sure your house is safe while you're away on holiday? The following is a list of do's and don't's which might help.
- Do make sure any security systems you have are working properly. Check intruder alarms, car alarms and outside lights too.
- Do switch off and unplug as much as you can. Turn off the water and gas. It's not usually feasible to turn off the electric unless you are going for some time and have emptied the freezer and fridge, but you should unplug everything else. Unplug TV aerials too.
- Do cancel all deliveries, such as milk and newspapers, and ensure that any post which is delivered doesn't pile up in an obvious way. If you have a fully glazed front door think about covering the glass with a curtain or sheet of paper so that the post falls out of sight behind this. If this isn't feasible then arrange for someone to come in and move the post every few days. Alternatively, consider using the Royal Mail Keepsafe service. You can arrange for them to hold your mail for up to 66 days and deliver it when you return home. Fees start from £5.70 for the first fortnight and you will need to give one week's notice.
- Don't talk about your holiday plans in a loud voice in public. It's unlikely, but you may be overheard by someone who knows where you live and quite fancies your new home theatre system.
- Don't leave a message on your answer machine saying that you are away or when you will be back.
- Do buy timer switches to turn lights on and off in the evenings. You can buy plug in adapters which can be used for table lamps. You can also buy lighting adapters which fit between the light socket and the bulb for ceiling lights.
- Do dig out those window keys and make sure that all doors and windows are locked. A determined burglar may still break in but anything that slows them down increases the chance that they will be seen and caught.
- Do mow your front lawn before you leave, and arrange for someone to mow it again if you are going to be away for more than a week.
- Don't leave curtains closed unless you normally do. Closed curtains during the day are very noticeable and suggest that there is something worth seeing behind them. Ideally your expensive TV, music system and computers shouldn't be easily seen through the windows anyway. If they are, consider moving them to somewhere less obvious while you are away.
- Do put your jewellery somewhere safe. A locked safe is good, and if you own something akin to the crown jewels then deposit them in a bank. For more modest items tucking them somewhere unusual will reduce the chance of them being found, although a ‘professional' burglar will search every nook and cranny. Remember where you've hidden them though. My aunt once gave a coat to charity which had her building society book and a gold necklace in the lining. (I'm pleased to say, they were both returned!)
- Do invite your neighbour to park on your drive while you are away. A car outside is the best way of suggesting that someone is at home.
- Don't leave expensive equipment in an unlocked shed. Move your lawn mower, bikes, tools and anything else you keep of value into a locked garage or utility room while you are away. If this isn't possible then at least fit a sturdy padlock to the shed door.
- Do consider paying a professional house minder to stay in your house or make regular visits, particularly if your house is large and isolated. For most of us this isn't necessary but if you decide it's the answer for you use a reputable company and take up references.
- Do remember to tell your neighbours about anyone who might legitimately visit your house while you're away. If you have arranged for someone to collect post, water plants or clean the windows then ensure that anyone else who might be keeping an eye on your house knows about it. That way they will know who to expect and who to suspect.
- Don't write your full address on luggage tags, and don't give your address to people you make friends with on holiday. If you want to keep in touch take their phone number and ring them when you get back. It pays to be suspicious. (And let's face it, will you really want to keep in touch once the effects of the sun and sea have worn off?)
- Finally, do leave a key and your contact number with a trusted neighbour. If there's a problem they'll call you. If they don't then you can relax.
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