The good weather is finally here to stay in New Hampshire so many people are looking forward to some time away. Whether you are planning on a long-weekend camping trip or an extended summer holiday, don't let your well-deserved vacation get ruined by an unexpected crisis at home.
The team at Holt Proctor McBriarty Insurance Agency in Milford has brainstormed to come up with some useful tips to hopefully prevent a loss from occurring in the first place. These tips come directly from our experience as insurance agents as claims do seem to pick-up while people are away.
1. Stop the mail and newspaper delivery - Nothing announces to the world more than having your mail or newspapers pile up in, and alongside, your mailbox. Stopping the mail has never been easier as it can be done directly on the US Postal Service's web site.
2. Have someone check on your home regularly - Hiring a house sitter is obviously the best way for your home to continue to look like someone is home. (A pet sitter can also serve this purpose and may be less than bringing your pet to the kennel). If this is simply too much, at least have a friend or neighbor check on the house while gone. Even if you have the mail stopped, anyone from the Avon Lady to the Boy Scouts are known to hang things from the mailbox. Be sure that you ask your neighbor to remove them.
It is also a good idea to give this person your contact information including your cell and hotel contact information (as cell phones do not always work). We would also recommend that you provide this person with the name and number of your insurance agent in case of an emergency. You would need to contact your agent as well in advance so it could be noted in your file that it is OK to talk with the specified person in your absence.
3. Maintain lawn/landscaping - If your lawn is always neatly mowed and then suddenly it is not, that may flag a sign to a potential burglar that there is not anyone home. If you are gone for more than a week, be sure to hire someone to mow your lawn. (This is also a nice way to extend your vacation so you have less to do upon your return to reality).
4. Utilize timers in your home - Timers are a great way to keep up the appearance that you are home even when you are not. Break-ins can occur while you are on vacation, or simply out for an evening, so utilize them all the time, but keep it fresh. Try to move the timers occasionally so it is not obvious that a timer is being used.
On a similar note, do not leave on a ton of lights without a timer, as this too will stand out if a burglar is scouting a neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning.
5. Unplug computers, television, stereo, toaster oven, etc - You will not only save on electricity but also protect these items should a power surge occur durring an electrical storm.
6. Do not announce to the world via Facebook, Twitter, etc that you are not home - This is so hard to do because we all love to share our photos and experiences about something out of the ordinary routine, but save it for when you are back home. Potential robbers don't have to work that hard if you are the one announcing to the world that you're far away and won't be back for several days/weeks. For a true story about how this has happened in New Hampshire, read this link from the New York Times.
7. Move your valuables to an unexpected place - A safety deposit box is the best place, but if this is not possible, be sure to move jewelry, guns, small electronics, silver, collectables, etc. to an unexpected place in your home. Many robbers are looking for a quick in and out and for items that can easily be converted to cash. If you have a jewelry box sitting on your bureau, then that is like taking candy from a baby to a robber. Move it under the bathroom sink, or into a linen closet, or food pantry, etc. If you are hiding a gun, be certain that it is not located where a child could find it.
8. Remove the spare key - The fake rock or hiding the spare key under the mat is really counterproductive to any theft protection steps you take to prevent loss. If someone suspects you are not home, it would be very easy for them to get into your house with a key. A better idea is to give each household member, and perhaps a trusted neighbor a key for back-up.
9. Inform the police - Though it would have to be a coincidence to have the police catch a robbery in action, you may be able to prevent the break-in altogether if you tell the police you will be gone. This will most likely increase the police monitoring of your neighborhood which may be evident to a criminal.
10. Walk through each room before your leave - If you visit each room before you leave, you can make sure that all windows and doors are locked and everything is off and all suit cases are ready to go. Taking the time to double check will, in the very least, give you peace of mind (ensuring that you unplugged the hair straightener or turned off the stove) and at best, prevent your home from being robbed or burning to the ground.