Woohoo! Vacation Time! Keep your home safe while you’re gone.

Family Vacation Home Safety Spring must be here and summer’s on the way. The snow in my yard has finally melted, and it was in the 80s today. I took my girls for ice cream after our Mother’s Day brunch. This means that travel season is here, and soon many of you will be making like a baby and heading out for vacation.

Here are a few tips about home safety while you are away.

Criminals like an easy target

I know you’re an honest person and not a criminal, but I’m going to ask you to think like a miscreant for a moment. Imagine that you’re trying to score a few bucks for your next hit of whatever chemical is being trucked up here from New York by the carful this week.

Got it?

Burgling a house might be your thing because, quite frankly, you’re a lazy and not looking for trouble. A nice quiet house, where you aren’t likely to get caught or shot is your ATM of preference. A house where the family is obviously on vacation is ideal.

Keeping OPSEC

OPSEC (short for operational security) is a military term, which is defined by the DOD as:

Operations Security, or OPSEC, is the process by which we protect unclassified information that can be used against us. OPSEC challenges us to look at ourselves through the eyes of an adversary.

One of the best ways to protect your home from burglary during vacation is not to advertise that you’re away. Here are some things to think about:

Having piles of mail or newspapers lying about outside your home is a good indicator that nobody’s been there for a while. Put a freeze on deliveries until you return.

Think about investing a few dollars for some timers for indoor lights and have them come on at different times at night. This can give the appearance to a casual observer that someone’s home (though most break-ins happen during the day). For a few dollars more, there is a neat device with lights that makes it look like there’s a TV on inside. You could hook up timer to something that plays music, or even talk radio (gasp) during the daytime.

I know we all love to brag about our vacations on Facebook, but think about who might be out there picking their next home shopping spree. I love to make my Facebook friends pour through 9,000 photos of our trip to Disney World, but I don’t post them till I get back. I would not advertise travel dates, and try to be careful about posting while we are currently on vacation. In full disclosure, this is something I need to work on a bit.

Don’t leave valuables in plain site from outside your house. That pile of iPads and Apple Watches on the coffee table might impress your guests, but to someone doing a little window shopping at your house, they just might be irresistible.

Put your burglar goggles on before you leave and walk the perimeter of your house. If it helps, you can wear a mask and striped shirt, but just tell your spouse what you’re doing first. Look at ways a crook might see someone’s not there. Pull curtains or close blinds. Don’t give anyone a good look inside your place.

General Tips

Lock up. Seriously, make sure everything is locked before you go. The vast majority of break-ins happen through unlocked doors or windows. Again Stealy McCriminal is not looking for a hard time, he’s looking for an easy score.

Tell a trusted neighbor when you’ll be away and ask them to keep an eye on your place. If they know nobody’s supposed to be there and somebody is there, they can call the police. A house-sitter is not a bad idea if you have someone you trust to do that.

If you have a few bucks and are tech-savvy, there are WiFi cameras, which act as silent alarms. If they sense movement in your house they alert your smartphone, and you can see what’s going on. Most have night vision, so they might help you catch ghosts too.

For the love of Pete, do not leave spare keys outside in a fake rock, under a planter, or on top of a doorframe. Crooks with 5 brain cells have already figured this out. If you need a spare in case of lockout, a trusted neighbor or family member is the way to go.

I’m a fan of monitored alarm systems, especially since ours scared away someone who broke into our house and automatically got the police. I know it’s not something everyone wants, and it is a monthly cost. I might save you a chunk on your homeowners insurance (it does affect ours) so could be something you think about.

By all means, enjoy your vacation, I know you’ve earned it (we Mainers work hard). With a little preparation, you hopefully won’t come home to any unpleasant surprises.

John Moore

About John Moore

John Moore is a Maine native who overcame congenital physical limitations to achieve a 3rd degree black belt in jujutsu. He holds two master's degrees, and is a nationally certified crime prevention instructor. John teaches martial arts and self defense in the Portland area