When preparing for a trip, there are several things that we think can improve your home security and peace of mind.
1. Designate a Primary Contact Person
One of the most important things to do is designate a person to be your primary contact person (PCP) while you are away. This is the person you will call if you have an emergency while traveling; it is also the person who will assess emergencies at home and determine if you need to be notified. The PCP should be reliable and close to home. S/he should also be available and willing. This person may or may not be your house-sitter – if you choose to have one – or the friend whom you asked to stop by occasionally to water your houseplants and make sure everything is all right.
2. Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a must. Yes, most likely you won’t need it, and I sincerely hope you don’t, but there is nothing worse than getting sick and then having to worry about money on top of that. For frequent travelers, the annual multi-trip travel insurance by Allianz is a great choice.
Your PCP should have details regarding your itinerary, your home (including who is responsible for what during your absence), your contacts (legal, medical, insurance, family, and friends), and your travel documentation. Friends, Carol and Jim, had an experience a couple of years ago that reinforced for us the need for a PCP. The day before they were to join us in France, Carol’s mother (their PCP) called to let us know that a plumbing leak had flooded part of our friends’ home. She assured us that she was taking care of the problem, but needed input from them regarding several decisions that had to be made. We broke the news to them, gently – after a couple of glasses of wine.
3. Organize Information for your PCP or House-sitter
Put together information about your house. We have a file containing instruction manuals for appliances, and a notebook we simply label as “House Notes.” The House Notes should include details such as idiosyncrasies of your utilities, including shut off instructions, how to play a DVD on your very old television system, and how to turn off your alarm system. Go room by room, floor by floor, as you develop this information book. You will probably be surprised at the amount of information you will record. We suggest that you start this file and notebook to accumulate information well in advance of your trip. If you wait until the day before your departure, it will probably be left undone. (If you do not have a house-sitter, you will only need the basics, such as how to turn off the utility mains and operate the alarm system.) You can leave the House Notes and file in an obvious place for use by your house-sitter, or anyone using your home while you are gone.
4. Security Precautions Checklist
- ____Check to make sure your doors and windows are as secure as possible.
- ____Install timers for both your interior and exterior lighting.
- ____Turn down the bell on your telephone.
- ____Close blinds and drapes as appropriate.
- ____Let your neighbors know that you will be out of town and who has access to your house.
- ____Park your car in a secure location. If you are going for a trip of more than a few days and normally park on the street, find a friend who will let you park in his/her garage or driveway.
- ____Arrange for your newspapers to be canceled or picked up.
- ____Arrange for your mail to be held at the post office (up to 30 days) or have it picked up at your house daily.
- ____Have someone haul your garbage cans in/out on pickup day.
- ____Make arrangements to have heating/cooling systems tended if necessary.
- ____Leave alarm instructions with your primary contact person.
- ____Leave extra house, garage, and car keys with your primary contact person.
- ____Turn down thermostat and refrigerator.
- ____Disconnect small appliances.
- ____Empty perishables from the refrigerator.
- ____Put valuables in safekeeping.
- ____Label shutoff locations for water and natural gas.
- ____Arrange for your plants and lawn to be watered and fed if necessary.
- ____Arrange for the lawn to be mowed. Leave written information about your watering system in the House Notes.
- ____In the winter, arrange for the sidewalk to be shoveled, as needed.
Follow these tips, use the checklist, and you’ll be on the road to a worry-free vacation.