Protecting your home when you are away


Justin Mays - Being a Good Neighbor



During the summer, we tend to do more activities away from home. Whether you are going to watch your children or grandchildren play sports, spend some time at the lake, visit relatives or take a much needed vacation, it’s important to protect your residence against possible home invasions or hazards during your absence. Here are some simple things you can do to help protect your home while you’re away.

Don’t share your travel itinerary on social media. Avoid chatting about your vacation plans on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You never know who is reading your posts. Also refrain from posting travel photos online until after you’ve returned. If you need to share your itinerary for any reason, then give your travel plans to someone you trust.

Ask your neighbor for a helping hand. A full mailbox is a dead giveaway that you’re gone. Instead of stopping your newspaper and mail delivery (which can be a hassle, especially if you’re only going to be gone for a few days), ask a neighbor to stop by daily to pick up your mail. In addition, your house key is better off with your neighbor than under the welcome mat or a plastic rock.

Hire a house sitter. If you’re new to the block and you don’t know your neighbors well enough to ask them to watch your home, consider hiring a professional house sitter. And if you have pets, having a house sitter means you don’t have to put your dog or cat in a kennel, which can be traumatic for some animals.

Store valuables in a safe deposit box. Important personal items, such as your home mortgage, vehicle registrations, passports, and expensive jewelry, should be kept in a safe deposit box off-site.

Install strong door locks. The most common way burglars break into a home is to kick the entranceway at the door jamb until it gives. A high-security four-screw strike plate, using 3-inch screws, and a door lock with an ANSI Grade 1 rating can make breaking into your home much tougher.

Trim trees and shrubs near the house. Keep shrubbery cut neat so the interior of your home is visible and burglars can’t hide undetected.

Turn down your phone’s ringer. A loud, unanswered phone can be a tip-off that you’re not home. Forward your calls to your mobile phone, as well.

Keep valuables away from windows. Your new flat-screen TV can be a tempting target, especially if it’s visible from the street. Move expensive appliances away from windows and out of sight.

Install light timers. Light timers are an inexpensive way to give the impression that your house is occupied. Available at most hardware stores, timers automatically turn lights on for a preset amount of time every day.

Set up motion sensors. Motion sensors installed in the front, back, and side of the house can detect movement and flood light on designated areas, potentially deterring break-ins.

Secure sliding doors. Many homes have a sliding glass door in the rear of the residence. Glass doors are usually less secure than wooden or metal doors. One way to make a sliding door more secure is to cut a wooden pole or thick dowel that matches the length of the sliding track when the door is closed. This simple trick can keep the door from opening even if the lock is compromised.

Put in a burglar alarm system. A home security system can be a cost-effective investment. If there is a break-in or fire and your system includes remote monitoring, a signal will be sent to your security system provider, who will contact your local police or fire department.

Unplug unnecessary appliances. A toaster, coffee machine, microwave, television, or computer is still using energy even when it’s not in use. Unplug all unessential electrical devices while you’re gone.

Turn off the main water valve. Water damage caused by a burst pipe might not be covered by your insurance. And frozen pipes in the winter can burst and cause flooding and property damage.

Alert the police before you leave. If you plan to be gone for a week or more, let your local police know. They may periodically drive by your home.

Join a neighborhood watch group. If your block has a neighborhood watch group, consider signing up. The friendlier eyes that are watching your home, the better.

Enjoy your summer, but remember to protect your home while you are away. It’s not only an investment, it’s your sanctuary…the place you share with your family and neighbors.

I always like to close my column by sharing this truth that I live by: The key to having a successful life begins with being a good neighbor, building relationships based on honesty and trust, working hard to make a difference for your family and community and being thankful for all the blessings along the way.

Justin Mays is a local businessman who serves neighbors in Bell and Harlan counties in Kentucky and Claiborne County in Tennessee. He may be reached at [email protected]

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Justin Mays

Being a Good Neighbor

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