Keep the exterior of the home illuminated with motion-activated lights, lights on timers, or by a neighbor who checks on the house and turns on the lights.

Keep the exterior of the home illuminated with motion-activated lights, lights on timers, or by a neighbor who checks on the house and turns on the lights.

Shutterstock image


Experts offer tips to protect homes during vacation

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published July 3, 2018

 Before leaving on vacation, set the thermostat to 78 degrees so that the air  conditioner doesn’t run constantly.

Before leaving on vacation, set the thermostat to 78 degrees so that the air conditioner doesn’t run constantly.

Shutterstock image

METRO DETROIT — With an approximately three-month window for families to get away during summer vacation, many are ready to embark on their trips without a look back.

However, taking proper safety precautions should be a high priority to avoid returning home to a burglarized or damaged home.

Jim Swinkowski, fire chief of the Shelby Township Fire Department, said to unplug computers, power strips and other electronic devices in the house.

“Especially in a computer area, it’s important to turn off a power strip that has a lot of devices plugged into it in case of a storm or power surge or something like that,” he said. 

Swinkowski also recommended checking the batteries in smoke detectors before leaving and shutting off the water to toilets so that homeowners don’t discover a soggy situation when they return home.

“When it comes to air conditioning and heating, either turn it off or turn it up to a higher temp so it’s not continuously running,” Swinkowski said. “Either set the temperature to 77 or 78 degrees or just shut it off completely, so that way, if there’s a problem with the air conditioner, you don’t need to worry about it by just shutting everything off.”

If residents have a sliding glass door, he recommended inserting a 2-by-4-inch piece of lumber in the bottom track so that an intruder could not force the door open.

Swinkowski also advised setting an interior light or two on different timers so that it looks like someone is home. 

Detective Sgt. Mike Bastianelli, of the Franklin Police Department, cautioned vacationers not to post anything on Facebook or other social media about anticipated trips.

“Anybody can monitor Facebook, so don’t publicize it on Facebook, but contact family members to let them know,” he said. “Definitely reach out to trusted neighbors and let them know when you’re going out of town so they can keep an eye out.”

He said neighbors should report any suspicious activity, such as an unknown car in the driveway, immediately. Oftentimes, he said, neighbors will report suspicious activity hours after it occurred, which does not help police.

“I would much rather go to a house where it was somebody who’s supposed to be there, rather than show up several hours later with the home broken into and tons of stuff missing,” Bastianelli said. “We’ve had that happen.”

Another important step to prevent intruders, Bastianelli said, is to have a neighbor or family member collect mail and newspapers or request a hold at the post office.

“There’s no better indicator that you’re not home than a pile of newspapers,” he said.

He also recommended that residents take in their trash cans and keep them in the garage, if possible, before leaving.

Most police departments keep a running list of addresses on which to perform house checks while residents are away. To join such a list, residents simply need to fill out a form at the police department.

The house checks are beneficial not only to prevent suspicious activity, but also to convey any sort of necessary notice to homeowners, such as storm damage, Bastianelli said.

Before leaving, Bastianelli also stressed the importance of securing the home — locking doors, windows and vehicles; enabling security systems; and making sure surveillance cameras are working.

“I can’t tell you how many open doors we find when people have left for vacation,” he said.

At night, he said, it’s a good idea to light up the exterior of the home, either with motion-activated lights, timers or having a neighbor or family member come to flip on exterior lights.

“Really, there’s no 100 percent way to keep (home invaders out),” Bastianelli said. “Crime will happen, but there’s a lot of ways to reduce exposure.”