You’re on your way out the door on vacation when you hear the news of recent break-ins in your neighborhood. Then you start obsessing about leaving the iron on, or about a water pipe bursting. It’s enough to make you stay home to avoid the stress. But don’t cancel that vacation — there are ways to prevent burglaries and other home-related disasters while you’re away.
Whether you stay or go, boost your home’s protection with these suggestions:
Replace doors with solid-core windowless doors. Install deadbolt locks.
Replace loose window screens, broken latches, and cracked windowpanes. Close and lock all windows.
Trim shrubbery that obscures windows and doors.
Never hide a key outside of your house.
In the summer, turn off the water heater and set your A/C at about 82 degrees to control humidity. For a winter getaway, turn your thermostat down to about 50 degrees.
Clean perishables out the refrigerator and cupboards. Turn off your ice-maker.
Unplug your TV, computer, and other electronics in case of a lightning surge.
Have a neighbor hold a spare key and check on the house periodically — if a water pipe breaks or you left the iron on, they can prevent further damage.
Pay a responsible neighborhood kid to pick up your mail and newspapers, or stop delivery at the post office and with the newspaper.
Ask a neighbor to drag a garbage can in front of your house on trash day and park in your driveway.
Leave automatic sprinkler systems running. Have someone mow your lawn or rake your leaves.
Put timers on lamps near windows so they will turn on and off in the evenings.
Install motion-activated lights outside the house.
Turn the ringer down on all phones.
Don’t announce your absence on your answering machine, and don't put notes on your door, such as “Take deliveries next door.”
Buy a “Beware of Dog” sign even if you don’t own a dog.
Secure storage sheds, attic entrances, and gates.
Call your local police to let them know you’ll be traveling. Some departments send patrols out to your home while you’re away.
If you must park in your driveway, remove garage door openers and keys, and lock the car doors.
Move small valuables to a safe deposit box or safe.
Check with your police department about property identification programs for valuables.
For added peace of mind, prepay bills so you won't have to worry about them while you're away.