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Tips to Secure Your Home While on Vacation

When on vacation or away from your home, make sure that your house has the look that says to a potential burglar, "Hit the Road, Jack," and not "Baby, I'm Yours."

"If there are two houses side by side, and one is well lit and has a burglar alarm sticker in the window, and the other is in shadows, surrounded by hedges and trees, the burglar will pick the obviously easier target," said Bob Federspiel, Nationwide Insurance's corporate security officer.

Don't bring attention to yourself or offer your house as a target of opportunity," he advised.

Federspiel stresses the importance of illusion. "To discourage a potential burglar, give the impression that you are home -- create an illusion of security."

One way to do this, according to Federspiel, is to use props whenever possible. Having a dog is the biggest deterrent to an intruder. " Put a stake in the backyard with a dog chain attached to it, and a large water dish beside it," he advised.

Moreover, if there is a dog at home, rather than boarding it at a kennel, Federspiel suggested leaving it outside while on vacation, weather permitting, and having a neighbor take care of it.

To continue the illusion, he advised connecting lights to automatic timers and setting them to turn lights on and off in the evening. "Most people have a routine that they follow every night, and the timers reinforce that routine when people are not home," he said.

Federspiel also suggested parking a car in the driveway, or asking a neighbor to park in the driveway. "Remember to move the parked car periodically to create the appearance of activity."

Other ways to secure a house are:

  • Ask a neighbor to take in the newspaper, mail, and any other deliveries.
  • Arrange to have the lawn mowed at regular intervals.
  • Store all valuables.
  • Leave window shades and draperies in their usual positions, but do not close them all the way on the street side of the house.
  • Lock all doors and windows including those in the garage, the basement, and the attic.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances and lower air conditioning/heating units to energy-saving levels.
  • Make sure auto, fire, and health insurance policies are correct.
  • Leave a house key and itinerary with a neighbor, friend, or relative. Be sure someone knows how to operate your alarm system if your home has one.
  • An alarm system is a very effective deterrent to burglary, Federspiel observed, especially if the system is advertised by a window sticker or a sign on the property. "Burglary is a surreptitious crime -- the perpetrator wants to keep it as hush-hush as possible."

Unless the house is being targeted by a professional for some specific item, an alarm system will normally discourage a would-be burglar. Make sure your house is not the intruder's "target of opportunity."