December is one of the most-traveled months of the year. Between end-of-year business and holiday visits, there are plenty of reasons to hop in the car or book a flight. Unfortunately, potential burglars know this as well. If you’re heading out of town this holiday season — or really, any time of year — try these tips to help keep your home secure while you’re away.
Hide Obvious Signs Of Your Absence
Let’s start small. If you’re not home, you don’t want to advertise that fact to anyone who happens to stroll past. A pile of daily newspapers growing at the end of your driveway or a mailbox bulging with mail are like glowing neon signs that no one is home, and hasn’t been for a while. So, step one before any trip should be arranging to disguise those clear signs. Have a neighbor or friend pick up your mail and newspapers or put a hold on those services while you’re gone.
During our snowy winters here in the Dover area, you’ll also want to think about hiring a snow removal service to clear the sidewalks and your driveway. You may not be there to enjoy the nicely cleared walkways, but it’s a good way to disguise your absence — plus, many neighborhoods and homeowners associations require regular shoveling for safety reasons.
Make It Look Like You’re Home
The other big thing you’ll want to do before any trip is set up a few automation around the house to make it look like you’re home. Getting a timer for your Christmas lights (both indoor and outdoor) is a good start. However, even families staying home for the holidays will do this, so that may not be enough on its own. Fortunately, technology makes it easy to make it appear as if someone is home. You could put a few household lights on timers, but with modern internet-connected home appliances, you can also turn the TV on and off from afar, turn on lights around the house at random times, or play something on the stereo.
Clear Away Hiding Spots
According to a burglary study, 83 percent of burglars said they would case a house long enough to determine whether a security system was present before trying to break in. One simple way to help protect your home is to take away potential hiding spots. Trim back bushes, replace a solid porch wall with slats, and so on. Step back from your home and look at it in terms of where you might hide while trying to peek in through doors and windows. Anywhere that you can move or remove potential hiding spots, do so. This goes for snow too! It might seem like common sense to pile up shoveled snow near the house, but make sure the build-up doesn’t provide an easy hiding spot.
Set Up A Home Security System
In that same vein, it may be worthwhile to get a home security system. Of the burglars surveyed in the study above, roughly half said they would choose a different target if a home showed evidence of a security system. Another 31 percent said it would depend, but might choose a different target if they found a security system. Things like video cameras and sensors on all entry points are good ways to deter theft. They’re also good ways to get notified within seconds if a break-in attempt occurs.
Update Your Locks
If you don’t want to go for a full security system, a few easy changes or upgrades can also make a big difference. Something many find surprising is that one of the best home defense options available — despite advances in technology — is a standard deadbolt lock! Burglars generally want to get into a house quickly. Only one in eight took the time to pick a lock, so a solid deadbolt lock can make a big difference. However, it’s important to make sure your deadbolt is installed properly, or it won’t provide that awesome protective help. Proper installation means that the bolt extends into the door frame at least an inch, that there is a metal strike plate on the door frame, and that the metal strike plate is installed on the door frame with at least three-inch screws. This helps ensure that the door can’t be forced open easily or quickly. You can get your local locksmith to come check your deadbolts for proper installation and function, though you may also want to have your locks rekeyed for additional security.
For those that want more security than just a deadbolt, but don’t want to go to the lengths of a full security system, we recommend upgrading your locks to a keyless entry system. This happy middle ground provides the protection of a deadbolt with the advantage of technology. Keyless entry systems aren’t just for businesses anymore; they’re just as helpful for homes and vacation rentals. It will replace your deadbolt lock, and some options will also replace your doorknob — ensuring the knob won’t even turn without the proper code is a good way to boost security. Many keyless entry options today are WiFi connected, so you can get an email or text message instantly any time someone enters, whether they disengage the lock with a code or not. Just ask your local locksmith for suggestions and installation.
General Winter Home Prep
The other big consideration for holiday travel is to keep your home safe by doing what you can to stave off disasters. Winter is prime time for burst pipes and other calamities, so before you leave, take a few steps to prepare your home. Turn your heat down, but ensure it’s still set warm enough that the pipes can’t freeze. Consider opening cabinets around any pipes near exterior walls for extra protection. Go around the house and unplug small appliances and electronics — except those you’ll be turning on to make it look like you’re home.
Get Professional Security Help
Before you head out on your holiday travels, make sure your home is as secure as can be. Connect with your local locksmith to check over your locks, install a new keyless entry system, rekey locks, offer a security assessment, and so much more. We are the lock and key experts, after all, so who better to come help boost your home security? Give us a call to help you prepare, because an ounce of prevention can prevent needing to call a 24-hour locksmith for emergency locksmith help when you return. Just don’t forget where you pack your keys!