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.
Then...let it go and relax! You're on vacation.