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Home protection checklist for the departing vacationer

Sep 24, 2012, 8:20 a.m.
Most criminals operate during summer, fully aware that their chances of happening upon a vacant home during this time of year are greater.

Did you know that summertime is the working burglar's peak season? Most criminals operate during summer, fully aware that their chances of happening upon a vacant home during this time of year are greater. While installing a burglar alarm will keep your home safe from unwanted entry, there are plenty of other hazards that could take place in your absence. Once you've gone through your standard packing checklist , it's time to take some additional steps to protect your home from some of the dangers that lurk within and without its four walls.

  1. Lock all windows and doors. This is something you should do even if you're only going to be gone for a few hours. If your away time will exceed this by a few days, it's imperative to secure all doors and windows to prevent someone from gaining easy entry.
  2. Turn off the main water valve to your home. Do this only if you're going to be away for an extended period of time. If an emergency takes place while you're gone and a water line breaks, you could suffer thousands of dollars of damage.
  3. Disconnect all nonessential appliances, with the exception of your freezer and refrigerator. This can help minimize the risk of electrical fires that could, in a worst case scenario, leave you without a home to return to at the end of your vacation.
  4. Buy and install some house lighting timers. These work by turning on certain lights throughout your home at designated times, to give an otherwise vacant home the appearance of being occupied. While a burglar alarm can work wonders, sometimes a well timed light can be enough to ward off curious criminals.
  5. Place all important papers in a well hidden, fire proof safe. This will ensure that irreplaceable belongings will weather any eventuality -- whether that's a break-in, a natural disaster, or a fire.
  6. Don't leave your computers connected to the internet. Leaving your computer up and connected can leave you wide open to identity theft from crafty hackers. It can also expose your computer to serious damage in the event of a power surge that could wipe your hard drive clean of vital information.
  7. Have someone collect your daily mail and newspapers and keep it for you until your return. If you're going to be gone for a long time, consider contacting the Post Office and putting a hold on delivery of your mail. The sight of an overstuffed mailbox is sometimes seen as a "Welcome" sign in the eyes of would-be burglars. If you have the paper delivered, call and ask that delivery be suspended until you return.
  8. Empty your backyard of any expensive tools or equipment. Just because you've got a fence doesn't mean that prying eyes won't find their way into your backyard and to a potentially lucrative treasure trove of equipment someone wouldn't even have to break into your home to steal.

By adding these precautions to your things-to-do list , you can avoid having a nasty surprise awaiting you when you return from vacation -- whether that's a broken water pipe or a home completely emptied of its valuables. Now that you've taken these precautions, you can go forth and enjoy your vacation with peace of mind.

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