With the unfortunate rise in crime rates in Namibia, it is essential to ensure that your house is protected and looked after if you are going away this Easter holiday. These 6 tips are also helpful for any other time of the year that you might be away from your home, whether it is for family holidays, work trips, weekend getaways, etc.
Tip #1: Hire a House Sitter
The one option that covers the majority of the below mentioned tips is to hire a house sitter. Whether you ask a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance, having someone physically stay at your house is a great way to ensure its safety. It can be a bit more costly, but it can also prove to be a more sensible option, especially if you have pets. The price of having your pets stay at the kennels will calculate at relatively the same price as paying for someone to stay in your home – but as an added bonus they will be able to look after the premise and give the idea that someone is at home. If the person is not close to you, remember to do a background check and ask for references before hiring. You want to be assured that your home, pets and valuables are in reliable hands.
Tip #2: Don’t Tip Off Criminals on Social Media or Phones
These days social media has become part of our daily lives, and we are very open to easily share our daily on-goings on networking sites like Facebook and Instagram. Therefore it’s important to remember that your profile can be public, and in most cases be read by anyone. Think about it – you will not shout in public, or announce to a crowd over a microphone, that you will be leaving your house unattended for a few days or weeks as you don’t want every Tom, Dick & Harry to know that you are leaving your home unattended. Therefore you should think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on social media. Also do not ask for recommendations or requests for house / pet sitters on social media, as anyone can see that you will be away from home.
Also, be careful what you say on your landline answering machine or mobile phone voice mail. Don’t leave a message saying you are on vacation. Callers don’t need to know that you’re not home, they just need to know that you can’t come to the phone right now.
Don’t lead burglars to your home with your GPS. For example: If you leave your car at the airport, a burglar can break into it, find your GPS unit and figure out exactly where your home is. Therefore do not leave your GPS unit in the car at any time. Alternatively, you can program a nearby intersection or location (like a shop or restaurant) that is close to your home, but not your exact home address. That way you will still have the GPS to lead you close to your home, but wont lead any strangers to your doorstep.
Tip #3: Notify Neighbourhood Watch and Your Alarm Company
If your neigbourhood has a Neigbourhood Watch let the group manager know that you will be away for the Easter weekend, and that they must be extra vigilant during this time period regarding the patrol of your house, as it will be unattended. If you have a security alarm, leave a house key and the code with someone you trust, and provide the alarm company with their name and phone number. Instruct the alarm company to do immediate call-outs if your alarm system goes off during the time period that you are away, in order to avoid any delays in case of an emergency.
Tip #4: To Keep the Curtains Open or Closed?
Before you leave for vacation, you may decide to close your curtains to prevent people from seeing inside your home. However, closed curtains also gives the immediate idea that now one is home. So what is your best bet? Leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you’re home, since noticeable changes could hint that you’re not around anymore, especially if your curtains are uncharacteristically left closed for a week. Move expensive items, like computers and television sets, out of plain sight if they’re visible from the window.
Tip #5: To Keep the Lights On or Off?
Don’t leave your lights on at home throughout the entire long weekend in an effort to make it look like someone is in the house. Your electric bill will end up very costly, and house lights which are on throughout the night might look a bit suspicious.
Instead, purchase a light switch timer that can turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule. Criminals keeping an eye on your house will notice lights switching on and off, and will most probably assume someone is doing it inside the house. Visit your local electrical hardware store to enquire whether they have these devices available or alternatively purchase them online from Amazon or EBay which offers a number of such products.
If you do not have the luxury of obtaining a light timer, but have someone looking after your pets or plants, ask that person to switch on an alternating room’s lights each day.
Tip#6: Secure your Garage Door and Sliding Doors and Windows
If you have an automatic garage door you’re already pretty secure as those doors are hard to open by anyone without the door’s linked remote. However some burglars have a way around, called “fishing.” It’s where a burglar will slide a metal coat hanger through the top of the door, and pull the emergency release trigger, turning off the automatic opener and allowing the door to be opened manually. This isn’t possible on all openers, but it’s definitely a risk for some. No matter which type of door you have, the best way to protect it is to install a deadbolt lock Just one per garage door will do the trick, but you could install one on each side as a fail safe. Also unplug the power to your automatic garage door to keep burglars from opening it with a universal remote.
Secure your sliding glass doors by placing a metal rod or piece of plywood in the track to prevent a burglar from forcing the sliding door open. An added idea is to connect a battery operated Door and Window Alarm, which is usually available at Crazy Store for approximately N$50 for two units, on your sliding doors and windows without burglar bars. The second this alarm unit detects a disconnection between the device and the door or window, the unit emits 100 decibel sound, which will scare any burglar, and also alarm your neighbours that something is going on.
You could also consider having some lights or motion sensors put in at your doors and windows. A battery operated push light in the window can be a great idea. Better yet, connect some outside and inside lights to motion sensors. This way, if anyone gets too close, the lights will come on automatically.
The Final Word is Prepare for the Worst
The last thing we want to be are prophets of doom, but one has to keep in mind that no matter what precautions you take, it is still possible that something could happen while you are away.
Go ahead and check your insurance policy and claim procedures before leaving. Create a home inventory and take lots of good quality pictures of everything in your house. This may take some time, but afterwards it is just a matter of keeping everything updated.
Taking all of the precautions listed in this article will ensure that you have much less chance of a robbery while you are away. If the worst occurs, you will also be better prepared to deal with the situation.
But most important, remember to be safe during the Easter holidays, and cherish the time spent with friends, family and loved one!