The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest traveling day of the year, and kicks off the holiday travel season. Millions of people travel by planes, trains, and automobiles to be with the ones they love. Unfortunately, the holiday travel season is also an opportune time for crooks to break into, rob, and vandalize those vacant homes. In fact, during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, thefts, burglaries, and other property crimes generally increase, and it's important for you to be prepared in case criminals target your home.
Thankfully, the 1990 film Home Alone provides the perfect template for how you can better protect your home during the holidays.
1. First, Nail Your Home Security Strategy
Every home is different, and every family has different home security needs. It's important to make sure you have a home security strategy in place before you skip town for the holidays. For example, you might want to invest in a heavy or easily concealed safe to protect important documents such as birth certificates, Social Security Cards, as well as valuables like jewelry or family heirlooms. You will also find value in examining any potential weaknesses or blindspots in your home security plan, and adjust accordingly.
Or, you can take this advice literally, and use nails as your home security strategy. Either way.
2. Watch the News for Break-Ins in Your Area
Another important step to take is to stay informed about what's going on in your city, town, or neighborhood. Ask yourself, "does my part of town have a history of break-ins? Is my home secluded enough or around too many houses for anyone to notice a break-in?" Often, you'll be able to check the local news for home break-ins in your area. You might also talk with neighbors that you trust and see if they've had any problems with home burglaries in the past.
The fact of the matter is the majority of home break-ins will not go unnoticed, and some criminals might even be dumb enough to leave a calling card or other evidence behind. As you prepare for your holiday excursion, be sure to take note of what criminals in your area are doing to break into people's houses. It just might be the difference between peace of mind, or a flooded house:
3. Make Sure Your Doors Are Secure
Over one-third of break-ins will take place right at your front door, according to This Old House. Often, we trick ourselves into thinking that criminals won't be so bold as to break in through our front doors, but the truth is, the front door is one of the easiest access points into your home. Before leaving for the holidays, make sure your handle or knob are screwed securely to the door, that your deadbolt is not loose, and that the door frame doesn't have any major gaps.
While we don't recommend the following tactic to keep your doors secure, it nevertheless proves a point - your front door is your first line of defense; it's in your best interest to make sure it's a strong one:
4. Lighting Schedules Can Deter Potential Crooks
One idea that's becoming more popular among home security companies is establishing a random lighting schedule in your home while you're away. Basically, through the latest home automation technology, you can now set either randomized or regular schedules to your lights and audio systems to give off the impression that someone is home, even if you're gone for weeks! These days, most crooks are smart enough to know that if the lights are on in one or two main rooms all day every day, that someone is most likely not home; however, setting light schedules will keep them guess, and more often than not, dissuade them from taking a chance.
Plus, lighting schedules will keep you from having to do something like this:
5. Leave the TV On, You Filthy Animal
Similar to lighting schedules, a simple way to keep crooks at bay is to keep your television or stereo system on while you're away. Truth be told, having the TV on all day is probably more believable than having the lights on all day. Services like Netflix and Hulu Plus have made binge-watching easier than ever. Just don't count on the fact that potential crooks have never watched TV, and therefore think the dialogue their hearing is actually someone talking to them:
6. When in Doubt, Call the Police
Of course, if you're at all worried about the security of your home while you're away, you can always contact the authorities. Law enforcement officials understand that the holidays are a popular time for would-be home invaders, and police are more than willing to help keep your home safe while you're away. Of course, according to one news report, while police departments are happy to help, they also ask that you do your part by not publicizing on social media when you're leaving and to where. Crooks will often scan social media first for clues of when a home will be vacant and for how long. So make things easier for the police, and they can take care of the rest:
7. Windows Are a Common Breach Point
According to This Old House, another 23% of break-ins will take place at a first-floor window. Thankfully, there are a number of security measures you can install to prevent break-ins at the window, such as strengthened, double-pane glass, additional window locks and sensors, or fragile, glass Christmas ornaments:
8. Bug Your Home (Preferably with Security Cameras)
When we say "bug" your home, we don't mean "have a tarantula on-hand." One of the most sure-fire ways to keep an eye on your home while you're away is to install security cameras at strategic points both on the interior and exterior of your home. Most home security companies will not only monitor the video feed themselves, but they'll also give you the ability to access live video records from your computer or smart device.
9. Unplug Your Appliances
Okay, this isn't necessarily so much a home security tip as it is a home energy-saving tip. Unplugging small appliances like your toaster or, in this case, your iron can save you money in utility costs. Heck, it might up the protection in your home just one step further.
10. Never Underestimate the Power of Trustworthy Neighbors
As a general rule, you should always try to get to know your neighbors. Get involved in a neighborhood watch program, or, if you're staying home for the holidays, keep an eye on your neighbor's house while he's away. You never know when you might need help from a neighbor with a snow shovel to get you out of a scrape: