When you're going on vacation

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 50, No. 5, June 2008, Pages 269-270 News

As summer approaches many people will be planning a well-earned vacation. Unfortunately, thieves often target homeowners when they are away on holiday, and coming back to find your home has been burgled is not the way a vacation should end. Here are some tips from the home insurance experts at the Mardon Group to help keep your property safe and sound while you are gone.

Burglars can pick up on all sorts of signs that you’re away. The lived-in look can fool them. Arrange to have someone mow the lawn or park a car in your driveway if you’re taking yours. You can even ask a neighbor to put a bag of garbage at your curb on garbage day.

A house that is dark 24 hours a day is a telltale sign. Set lights on timers in various rooms. Timers are inexpensive and effective, especially the multiple-program type. Have the lights go on and off at different times each day, so a burglar can’t pick up on a pattern. Motion sensor lights outside can also startle burglars and make them flee. Consider installing sensors at the front and back of your house. 

Don’t advertise that your home is empty by leaving notes on your door saying you’re away. People sometimes do this when they’re expecting deliveries, but if a burglar reads such a note you may just as well leave the front door open. 

When your mailbox is full, it’s an indication the house or apartment is vacant. Consider replacing a small mailbox with a larger one to keep your mail out of sight. If you are going to be away for more than a few days, ask Canada Post to hold your mail and stop newspaper delivery until you return. Have a neighbor hold any free newspapers and junk mail for you.

Give a trusted neighbor a spare set of keys and tell him or her when you’re leaving and returning, where you’re going, how you can be reached in case of emergency (a phone number), and if anybody will be at your home (gardener, repairperson). 

Ask the neighbor to keep an eye out for anything suspicious and simply to check your house once in a while. This is especially important in the event something happens in the house while you are away, like a burst pipe. Even if you have an alarm system, it is not likely to pick up on this type of occurrence.

Ensure your doors and windows are securely locked. Don’t forget about the garage. Make sure you take the key out of the door when you lock up. You’d be surprised how often people forget! To be extra safe, place a block of wood in the lower track of sliding doors or windows to prevent them from being forced open. 

Burglars know all the hiding spots for valuables. If you can’t bear the thought of a favorite piece of jewelry being stolen, put it in a safety deposit box while you’re gone. Your insurance company will help if you suffer a loss, but sentimental items can never be replaced. 

Take an inventory of your goods and ensure it is in a safe place away from your home. If you do suffer a loss, it will make filing a claim much easier. It’s difficult to remember how many CDs you have, the year and model of your TV, or the pattern of your grandmother’s silver. 

Use a tape recorder, video camera, or digital camera to speed up the process. Or use a company that specializes in videotaping belongings. Don’t forget to note serial numbers of electronic equipment. 

And last but not least, remember that your homeowner’s policy will cover your possessions temporarily removed from your home—that includes the contents of your suitcase—so keep track of what you’ve packed. 

—Sandie Braid, CEBS
BCMA Insurance

Sandie Braid, CEBS. When you're going on vacation. BCMJ, Vol. 50, No. 5, June, 2008, Page(s) 269-270 - News.

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