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Simple do's and don'ts that give peace of mind
By VIKTOR CHONG and SHALINI KATESSAN
YOU have been planning this vacation for some time, and now the time has come to set off. But before you go on that well-deserved break, you need to take steps to keep your home safe.
Here are a few ways to secure your house while you are away on holiday:
Mow the lawn and sort the mail
Hire a gardener to maintain your lawn. Ask your neighbour to help sort out your mailbox so that it doesn’t look cluttered.
An unkempt garden and overflowing mailbox will give the impression that nobody is home. Cancel your magazine and newspaper subscriptions if you are going on a long trip.
Install a security system
Skilled burglars will not be deterred by security cameras, fake or real. Having video footage of the culprit will go a long way towards assisting
Consider investing in an alarm system that will notify the nearest police station when your house is broken into.
If this option is expensive, put up fake security cameras to provide the illusion of surveillance. Fake cameras will keep the burglars at bay – at least for a while.
Switch off to reduce fire risk
All electrical appliances should be turned off at the socket except for the refrigerator. This measure will reduce the risk of fire occurrence while you are away.
Before leaving the house for your long journey, it will be prudent to check all your windows and doors one more time. Make sure they are tightly locked.
Ask neighbours to keep watch
The best way to protect your home is to be a good neighbour. Get to know your neighbours by talking to them regularly.
Before going on vacation, inform your neighbours and ask them to keep an eye on your property.
They’re the first line of defence while you’re gone, and you can return the favour when they are away. Giving them your vacation contact is essential, just in case of an emergency.
If you are not comfortable with your neighbours, ask your friends or family members to check your home a couple of times a week while you’re away.
You may want to inform the police about your holiday so that they can send extra patrols to watch over your neighbourhood.
Leave the blinds open (as usual)
If you regularly leave the blinds open in your home during the day, don’t close them when you go on vacation.
Keep your house looking normal and lived in. You don’t want to do something that is out of the ordinary because it would be an obvious giveaway to burglars.
Using a timer for lights may not be that helpful; when the lights come on at night, it could be evidence that nobody's in the living room watching TV.
Close the blinds half way or close them strategically so that specific areas or rooms are hidden, while shades in other areas can remain open.
Beware of social media
Most of us share almost every single activity on social media. It’s always tempting to post your holiday photos as you snap them to share with your friends.
By doing so, you are broadcasting to the world that you are not at home now; this is like telling the burglars to visit your home while you are away. So skip the postings, check-ins and status updates like “Off to the airport!” until after you get home.
Lock the garage (and all other doors)
Be sure to lock every single possible entry into your home.
An automatic garage door is quite secure because it is hard to break open. However, a burglar can work around it by “fishing” – using a coat hanger to pull the emergency release trigger at the top of the door and then open it manually.
No matter which type of garage door you have, the best way to burglarproof it is to install a deadbolt. Just one deadbolt per garage door will do the trick, but you could install one on each side as a failsafe.
Don’t leave spare keys around
If you have spare keys hidden somewhere – in the mailbox, shoe rack, under a mat or fake rock – remove and stow them away.
If would-be burglars know you’re away, they will have time to search for the spare keys. They probably know all the common hiding spots better than you do.
Keep valuables away in the safe
When you are at home, there’s often cash, jewellery or family heirlooms lying around.
Before going on holiday, make sure you keep all your valuables in a safe.
Get someone to be a house sitter
Another safety measure is to hire a house sitter. Having someone like a family member or friend staying at your home will be a great deterrent for any would-be burglar.
To complement the house sitter, ask someone you trust to take care of the garden and plants, as well as check the mailbox. This way, the house is cared for inside and out.
There are companies and agencies that offer house-sitting services. The most reputable ones provide reviews, references and even background checks.