Security Checklist for Vacationing Home Owners

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You’re going on vacation… but you want to make sure your house is in one piece when you return! Use our handy checklist to make sure you are aware of potential pitfalls. Then, you can leave your home with peace of mind.

A few weeks before your departure:

  • Choose a guardian to visit your home regularly during your absence. Draw up a list of duties you would like this guardian to perform.
  • Have your valuables engraved using a tool you can borrow from your local police department. They should also provide a sticker for you to put somewhere on the house indicating that your valuables have been engraved. This should discourage thieves because your items will be harder to sell.
  • Install outside lighting connected to motion detectors, covering less visible areas of your property.
  • For night lighting of the front of your house, choose fixtures with photosensitive switches or solar timers.
  • Tell only a few people that you are going away, and ask your friends or relatives to be discreet.
  • Especially, resist the temptation to share your excitement on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as you approach your holidays away from home.

The week before you leave:

  • In summer months, make sure that your lawn and flowerbeds will be taken care of (mowed and watered) while you are away. In winter months, make sure that paths and driveways will be quickly cleared after a snowfall. Thieves are on the lookout for properties that appear to be neglected.
  • Have your mail held at the post office, and cancel newspaper delivery during your absence. Put a temporary “no flyers” on your mailbox.
  • Set up call forwarding, or plan to listen to and delete your voicemail messages remotely. An automated message saying your mailbox is full would provide a good clue to a would-be thief that you are away for an extended period of time.
  • Ask your appointed guardian to accompany you on a tour of your property so that you can give them precise instructions.
  • If your home is protected by an alarm system, show your guardian how to arm and disarm it, and give him or her a temporary access code.
  • If the alarm system is connected to a central monitoring station, make sure the name and number of your guardian are on the list of emergency contacts provided to the alarm company.
  • Provide your trip plan to your guardian and to your relatives, along with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the places you will be staying so that you can be reached in case of an emergency.
  • Ask a trusted neighbour to park his or her car in your driveway and put your garbage and recycling bins near the curb on the appropriate days.
  • If you have a fruit, vegetable or herb garden, tell your guardian to help themselves to whatever ripens while you are away.
  • Notify your insurance provider if your home will be unoccupied for more than 30 days in a row.
  • Store valuables, important documents and spare keys in a safe.
  • Set up timers to turn lights on and off at intervals. The newer electronic timers can be programmed for variable lighting sequences over a seven-day cycle. Make sure the battery is sufficiently charged so the program won’t be erased in case of a power outage.
  • Place ladders, garden tools and accessories locked away and out of sight of any would-be thieves.

The eve of your departure:

  • Secure your windows and patio door(s) using metal safety bars, auxiliary locks, lengths of wood, etc. Remove the crank handles from any windows equipped with them, and store them out of sight.
  • Disconnect computers, televisions, stereo systems, etc.
  • Move indoor plants away from the windows with the most sun exposure (south- and west-facing) so they won’t need as much watering. Leave a few containers of water nearby so your guardian can water them.
  • Plan for extra water outside, in closed containers to prevent evaporation, or in a barrel, for watering flowers or your vegetable garden.
  • Turn off the pool heater and lower the temperature of the hot tub water, but leave the filter on. Remember, however, that stopping treatments can degrade water quality, so it’s best to have someone maintain your pool or spa while you are away.
  • Empty all garbage cans in the house and ask a neighbour to put the garbage out on the appropriate day.
  • Don’t put address labels on the outside of your luggage: you could be providing a golden opportunity to an ill-intentioned person who sees that you are leaving and reads the address. Place address labels inside your bags instead.

The day of your departure:

  • Turn off the air conditioning or, in winter, lower the setpoint of your heating system.
  • Shut off the main water inlet valve.
  • Shut off the taps to the washing machine and water heater. (if the water heater is electric, turn off the power).
  • Turn on any of the lighting timer(s) you have programmed.
  • Connect a radio (tuned to a talk station) to a timer; the conversations could fool Potential burglars into thinking that someone is in the house.
  • Try to be discreet when putting your luggage into your car.
  • Lock the garage door and disconnect the door opener.
  • One last time, check that all doors and windows are locked.
  • Arm the alarm.
  • Lock the front door.
  • If you have a refrigerator with a water dispenser and/or ice-maker, shut off the water supply valve and empty the ice cube tray. If there is a power failure during your absence, the ice could melt and overflow on to your kitchen floor. Check the refrigerator’s instruction manual for the steps to follow. Don’t forget to turn the supply valve back on when you return and replace the water filter if necessary.

When you get back:

  • Turn the water back on.
  • Flush water that has remained stagnant in the pipes by turning on all hot and cold taps in the house and letting them run for a while. You can also recover that water to water indoor and outdoor plants, or to wash your car.
  • Turn the water heater back on, and wait a few hours before using the water.
  • If you programmed a temporary alarm code for your guardian, erase it and program a new one
  • If your home is protected by smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors that run on batteries, make sure the batteries haven’t run down while you were away.
  • Get in touch with your guardian to tell them that you’ve arrived home, everything is fine and thanks!

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