Tick tock. Check your watch. Every 16.4 seconds, a home burglary takes place in the United States. That number is scary enough on its own, but it gets even scarier when you’re away on vacation, leaving your home vulnerable to opportunistic criminals who can spot signs of your absence from a mile away.
That’s one reason why having a solidly rated safe — and ideally, a security system to back it up — is so important. Often, seeing that your home and valuables are well-protected is enough to deter criminals from even trying. But don’t stop there: Use the following tips to help keep your home safe while you’re away.
Be selective about who you tell. Do tell at least one trusted person that you’ll be out of town. But don’t spread the news on social media or in your voicemail greeting; both are open invitations to burglars. (Okay, we get it — if you do use social media, at least check your privacy settings. And remember: Nothing is ever truly private on Facebook.)
Conceal signs of absence. Slowly accumulating mail and newspapers send a clear signal to burglars: Nobody home! Hide those tell-tale signs by asking a trusted friend or neighbor to pick them up, or placing a hold on mail and newspaper delivery until you return.
While you’re at it, set a few interior lights on timers and ask a friend to keep things looking ship-shape — driveway plowed, lawn mowed, trash cans taken out (and recovered), air conditioner running on low if you’re in a hot climate — until you’re back. That same friend can alert you to any maintenance issues with your home; coming home to burst pipes or a fire-damaged home is almost as bad as a burglary.
Use your resources. Make sure the house is securely locked up before you go: Lock windows and doors, use a metal rod or heavy wood dowel to block the tracks on sliding windows and glass doors, unplug the automatic garage door opener and lock the door. If you have a security system, let the company know how to reach you while you’re out of town, and make sure the system is armed. If your system provides remote updates or video streaming, test that capability before you leave time.
Finally, before you go, get a burglar’s view of your home by peeking in from outside. See anything temptingly valuable? Burglars will too, so conceal these items out of sight or, better yet, tuck them away in a safe.
Make your home less attractive. Regardless of whether you’re home or away, keeping the area around your house well-lit makes it harder for criminals to hide. Ditto for keeping trees and bushes well-trimmed and away from windows, doors and walkways, where burglars might want to hide.
Retrieve your keys. Burglars are hip to all the “best” places for stowing an extra key outside your home — so retrieve any hidden keys before you leave. This is a security risk even when you’re at home so, once you get back, consider leaving that spare key with a trusted friend or family member instead of putting it back out.
Secure your vehicle. Are you leaving your car outside to make your home look occupied? Great! But secure the transmitter for the automatic garage door opener in your house, first; otherwise all burglars have to do is smash your car window, push a button, and they’re in.
If you’re leaving your car in long-term parking at your departure point, do the same thing, and remove any portable GPS devices or documents with your address on them from the car. Otherwise, you’re providing a convenient road map to your unoccupied home.
Unplug your electronics. It’s a small detail, but unplugging electronics (except those lights on timers, and anything else truly essential) might just save you from coming home to a house fire caused by a power surge. And hey, it’ll slim down your electric bill, too.