Consumer Corner Column

Consumer Corner: Keep your home safe while you’re away

Release Date: Jun 25, 2012

By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt

TOPEKA – (June 25, 2012) – Take steps to keep you most valuable asset – your home – safe while you are on vacation.

Sadly, burglaries are common while folks are on vacation. Thankfully, there are some simple steps to make sure your home is safe while you and your family are on that hard-earned vacation.

Be cautious of whom you tell about your vacation. It’s okay to let a trusted neighbor know when and where you are going but be careful telling others. One innocent comment or post on a social networking site could lead to problems. Don’t risk it. Many folks hire “house sitters” these days. This is a great way to make sure your house continues to look lived-in while you’re gone.

Even if you don’t hire a house sitter, there are some simple ways to lead potential burglars into thinking you’re still at home. Invest in some quality light timers. Hook a timer up to lights, televisions and radios. This will mask the fact that there isn’t anyone home. Adjust the timers’ settings to your normal routine. Be sure to ask someone to water your plants and keep the yard mowed. Remember: you want your home to look as if you are still there.

Make sure everything is locked and secure before heading out on your excursion. If you do not have dead bolt locks, have them installed by a professional. Make sure your home security system is working properly. Double check sheds, windows, garage doors, basement windows and any places a thief may target to break into your home.

It is also a good idea to have the post office hold your mail while you are away. Or ask a trusted neighbor to collect your mail and newspapers. A few newspapers lying in your driveway may be an invitation to steal. If someone is collecting them for you, ask them to hold them in their house until you return instead of piling the papers on the front porch.

Keep valuables such as jewelry and important documents in a safe deposit box. Consider using a video camera or your smart phone to keep a video diary of all of your belongings. Keep a record of serial numbers for electronics and other valuables; this may prove useful in getting your belongings back if something were to happen to them.

An unanswered phone also might tip off a prowler that no one is home. Turn the ringer to the phone off while you’re away and don’t refer to your trip in your outgoing message. If you can check your messages remotely, learn how to use this feature. You may also be able to forward your phone to your cell phone.

Remember that trusted neighbor that you are going to have collect your mail? Why not get him or her to park in your driveway while you are away?

Do you have outdoor motion sensor lights? If not, have those installed as well. If the light were to come on while prowling around your house a robber could assume someone is home and they will not stop at your place. Consider shutting off your gas and water to avoid potential flooding, gas leakage or fire. It sounds a bit rash but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

It might be a good idea to call your home security company and let them know you will be away. Confirm that they have your cell phone number. This way the company will know where you are and how to reach you if something does occur. In some areas, you can even notify local law enforcement so they can keep an extra eye on your home.

You work hard all year and deserve a good vacation with your family. Don’t let your vacation be cut short with a tragedy or burglary. With these tips you can relax on your vacation with the peace of mind that your home and belongings are safe. Have a good trip!