Summer holiday season is here, which means many of us will soon be busy planning, packing and digging out our passports. However, don’t forget one of the most important pre-holiday tasks – securing your home to prevent break-ins while you’re away.
Here, Dr Steffan George, development director of The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) – the leading trade association for the locksmithing profession – shares his top tips on how to protect your home this summer.
Before you leave
It can be stressful trying to leave for the airport, with everyone rushing around getting ready and packing last minute things. So plan ahead and do as much as possible the day or week before to secure your home.
Firstly, cancel regular deliveries of milk and newspapers – multiple milk bottles and a stack of mail on the doorstep or in the porch is the most obvious sign of an empty house. You can also set up a Royal Mail Keepsafe™ account, which holds your mail for up to 66 days then delivers it the day after you return home. More information can be found at www.royalmail.com/personal/receiving-mail/keepsafe.
Next, store valuables such as jewellery, laptops and other gadgets securely out of sight, ideally in a professionally specified and installed safe. This may sound obvious but can be easy to forget if you leave it until the last minute, and leaving these items on show makes burglars more likely to target your home.
Similarly don’t leave car, garage or spare house keys in view, as windows can easily be smashed to reach them and gain entry.
Don’t forget your garden either – securely store any ladders, tools or other objects that could be used to break in. Secure sheds, outhouses and garages with a suitably third party-approved lock, such as approval by leading security product test house Sold Secure (see www.soldsecure.com for details on approved products).
Finally, check that all windows and doors are locked and set your alarm. These simple steps will significantly increase home security and put your mind at ease so that you can concentrate on enjoying your holiday.
While you’re away
Leave a spare key with a trusted neighbour, friend or relative and ask them to pop in a couple of times a week to check your property and remove any post. Consider investing in a patented key system, which prevents copies of keys being made without proof of ownership.
While you’re sightseeing, relaxing on the beach or waiting around at the airport, be careful about how much you reveal on social networking sites. For example if your Twitter and/or Facebook account isn’t protected, hundreds of strangers can see everything you post and will know your house is currently empty.
If you have any serious security concerns then you can get CCTV systems that are able to be remotely monitored, allowing you to keep an eye on your property from wherever you are in the world via the internet, including on your smart phone.
If you’re planning to be away from home for more than a couple of weeks, it’s worth taking a few extra precautions.
Unplug appliances and electronics such as the toaster, oven and television to protect them from power surges, and leave your curtains open to prevent unwanted attention being drawn to the property.
Use light timers in rooms at the front and back of the house to give the impression that you’re in at night. However, make sure that they’re not all timed to come on and go off at exactly the same time. Ideally also have one upstairs as potential burglars won’t be able to see if anyone’s up there.
If you’re away during the winter months, set your heating to come on for a couple of hours per day to stop your pipes freezing, and let the friend or relative with the spare key know where the stopcock is in case a pipe does burst. It’s also worth checking your insurance small print to see whether you need to leave your loft hatch open!
Consider having a security check before you go away – a third party accredited, licensed locksmith, such as an MLA member, will be able to assist in reviewing a property’s security and install effective security measures, helping to save money in the long term.
To find a locksmith in your area visit the user-friendly MLA website at www.locksmiths.co.uk. To review a list of independently tested and approved security products visit the Sold Secure website at: www.soldsecure.com. Security guidelines for domestic properties can also be downloaded free of charge from http://www.locksmiths.co.uk/security-advice/security-guidelines-for-domestic-dwellings/.
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