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15 Keys to Protect Your Home When You are on Vacation

2004, over 2 million burglaries took place in the United States, according to the FBI. Burglaries were highest in July and August -- a time when many families are enjoying their long-anticipated vacations.


Making sure your home is secure while you're away will put your mind at ease so you can enjoy your vacation.

This is why, as you plan all the final details for your trip, it's essential to take some time to plan for what's going to be left behind: your home. If more homeowners knew how to burglar-proof their homes, according to the Insurance Information Institute, nine out of 10 home break-ins could be prevented.

"A significant number of break-ins could be prevented with simple precautions such as canceling a newspaper delivery, placing timers on lamps, and having a neighbor take in the mail," said Lauren Russ, executive director of the Burglary Prevention Council.

There is also the issue of home accidents. If steps are not taken to protect your home from accidents or natural disasters while you're away, damage from water, electricity or fire can sometimes be even more devastating than a burglary.

So after the reservations have been made, the pets (and maybe the kids) are safely staying with Grandma and you've packed more clothing than you could ever need, be sure to follow the home-protection tips below. This way, when you return your home will likely be just as you left it, with no unpleasant surprises to dampen your post-vacation high.

1. Stop your mail, newspapers and any other home deliveries.
You can do this by filling out a form with the post office and calling your newspaper to ask for a vacation hold.

2. Ask a relative or neighbor to housesit.
This person will, ideally, stop by as often as possible to check for any deliveries that haven't been stopped, water plants, open curtains periodically and even move your car from the garage out into the driveway once in a while.

3. Install timers on your indoor and outdoor lights.
Having lights on inside and outside of your home will make it look like someone's home, or will be soon. Installing motion-detectors on your outdoor lights (so they turn on whenever motion is detected) can also be helpful.

4. Make sure the garage door cannot be opened.
You will probably need to disconnect the garage door opener to do this.

5. Arrange for someone to cut the lawn.
Nothing gives away an unoccupied home faster than grass that is over a foot long (other than, maybe, five newspapers in the driveway). If you will be gone long enough for the grass to grow too high, make sure a friend, neighbor or hired service will cut it for you. The same goes for trimming bushes.

6. Ask the police department to do a "vacation watch."
Many police departments will check on your home while you're away.

7. Lock all your doors and windows.
This may sound obvious, but it's estimated that 28 percent of burglaries occur without using force to gain entry. In other words, they probably entered through an unlocked window or door. Check all of your windows and doors, including the one leading into your home from the garage and windows in the basement.


Nine out of 10 burglaries could be prevented if homeowners took the proper steps to burglar-proof their homes.

8. Leave curtains and shades open.
If you will not have someone house-sitting for you, leave your drapes and blinds open (but be sure there are no valuables like jewelry, laptops, etc. in plain site). Closed shades during the day make it look like no one is home, and also offer a burglar who enters your home a great deal of privacy.

9. Never leave a message on your answering machine saying you're on vacation.
This lets everyone who calls know that you're gone and when you'll be returning. Leave your answering machine message the same as always, but change the setting to pick up on the first or second ring. This way, a burglar won't hear a constantly ringing, but unanswered, phone.

10. Unplug everything you can.
Other than the refrigerator, freezer and lights on timers, everything -- including the coffee pot, computer, TV, toaster, etc. -- should be unplugged when you're on vacation. Why? Because even though your clock radio may not be on, the circuit is still active and could potentially cause a problem.

11. Make sure appliances are off.
Double-check the stove, oven, coffee maker, curling iron, etc., and then unplug them, as mentioned above.

12. Consider shutting off the water.
If you will be gone for a week or more, you may want to turn off the water to your toilets, sinks and washing machine. A broken pipe at an inopportune time could otherwise cause a great deal of damage.

13. Turn down the setting on your hot water heater.
This will save energy and money.

14. Consider installing a security system.
This may help to deter burglars and set your mind at ease. Before you choose a system to install, though, do your homework. Prices, and quality, vary widely, and you can usually get free estimates before you decide.

15. Secure sliding glass doors.
Sliding doors can be forced open by intruders. Placing a metal or wooden rod in the track will prevent this.

Recommended Reading

Car Rentals: 12 Things Everyone Needs to Know to Save Time & Money ... and Avoid Grief

Six of the World's Grimmest Tourist Destinations


FBI: Crime in the United States 2004

Keeping Your Nest Safe and Secure During Summer Vacation

Realty Times: Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe While You're on Vacation

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