The winter months are every Australian’s favourite time to take a holiday, escaping our cool weather for the summer warmth of a Mediterranean cruise or Caribbean beach escape. Yet, an empty house or apartment left while its owners are away traveling can be a tempting target for criminals. We don’t mean to alarm you or leave you fearing for your belongings while you’re in the European sun, but it’s always important to take certain steps to ensure your home is safe.
Unplug your electrics
Pull the plug on your television, computers, toasters, kettle and other electrical appliances around your home to protect them from power surges. Not only will this help to keep your home safe, it will also help to save power, as many appliances use power even when they’re turned off.
Get help from a friend
A simple and effective way to gain peace of mind while traveling is to ask a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on your place while you’re away. You might need to bribe them first with some freshly baked goods, or maybe you could just promise to return the favour at some point. All they need to do is drive by every couple of days and check on the place. You could even provide them with a key if you’re away for a while and would like your mail brought in, the cat fed and your plants watered. Make sure you provide your friend with some contact information and a copy of your itinerary in case of any emergencies. It’s also always helpful to provide them with a ‘household cheat sheet’ with some information on what day the bin is emptied, any deliveries you are expecting or any other friends that might be keeping an eye on your place.
Don’t tip off criminals
It may seem like common sense but in a modern world where everyone is constantly connected via social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, it is important to not give too much away. Stop and think: who exactly is reading this post? Social media can encourage us to share personal information without completely realising who could be reading it, sometimes complete strangers could be reading your daily reflections.
Let your local police station know
Consider letting the police know that you’re going on a prolonged vacation, or a stay longer than a week. If you’re lucky, the police might go out of their way to drive by your house while on patrol, to ensure everything is okay. If you have a house security alarm, leave a house key and the code with someone you trust, and provide the police and alarm company with their name and phone number.
Should I open or close the curtains?
This can be a difficult decision to make, but we urge you to stick to whatever you normally do. You may want to close your curtains to prevent people from peering inside your home to see whether you’re there or what is potentially inside. However, closed curtains also prevent those who mean well – the police, your neighbours or friends – from taking a look inside. Sticking to what you normally do will ensure there are no noticeable changes drawing attention to your home. If you usually have your curtains open, be sure to move expensive items out of sight if they’re visible from a window.
Hold your mail
You can either place a “stop” order on your mail and newspapers or can arrange a friend or neighbour to pick up your mail whilst you’re away. Otherwise, a week’s worth of mail in the letterbox and newspapers on the lawn might signal no one is home and attract potential criminals!
What about lights?
Obviously, you can’t leave your lights on throughout your entire vacation. Not only will you come home to a giant electricity bill, that behaviour isn’t exactly eco-friendly and might draw more attention to your house. It is best to purchase a light switch timer that will turn your lights on and off automatically to a programmed schedule. This way, your lights can stick to your usual pattern and any criminals keeping an eye on your house will notice the lighting switching on and off throughout the day.
Take in your spare key
No matter how well you think you’ve hidden that spare key, experienced criminals can probably find it in even the hardest spots. If a criminal figures out you're away on vacation, it's likely that he or she will check around your property for a spare key. So reach under the mat, into the mailbox, above the door frame or into the flower pot and remove your spare key before you leave to save you coming home to any surprises!