By April McBriarty-Weismann, VP of Business Development & Communications
Holt Proctor McBriarty Insurance Agency
Summer is finally here in New Hampshire so many people are looking forward to some time away. Whether you are planning a weekend camping trip in the mountains or an extended summer holiday, don’t let your vacation get ruined by an unexpected crisis at home.
The risk management team at Holt Proctor McBriarty Insurance Agency in Milford New Hampshire has seen many clients file a claim following a vacation. Because many of these claims could have been prevented, we compiled a useful guide on what to do to prevent a claim from happening in the first place.
- Stop mail and newspaper delivery
It is pretty obvious that no one is home when there is a mail sticking out of the mailbox or newspapers piling up on the driveway. Be sure to have these deliveries stopped before leaving. You can stop the mail by filling out a form at the post office or on-line by visiting the US Postal Service’s web site.
- Have someone check on your home regularly
Hiring a pet or house sitter is the best way for your home to continue to look occupied. (Be cautious of hiring a teenager you do not know well as your home could inadvertently turn into “party central.”)
If a house/pet sitter is not an option have a friend or neighbor check on the house daily. Even if the mail and paper are stopped, anyone from the Avon Lady to the Boy Scouts is known to hang things from a mailbox. Be sure that you ask your neighbor to remove them.
It is also a good idea to give this person your contact information including your cell and hotel contact information (as cell phones do not always work). We also recommend that you provide this person with the name and number of your insurance agent or company in case of an emergency. Given privacy issues, we also recommend that you contact your agent in advance so it can be noted in your file that it is OK to talk with the specified person in your absence.
- Maintain lawn
If your lawn is always mowed and then suddenly not, it may flag a potential burglar that there is not anyone home. If you are gone for more than a week, be sure to hire someone to mow your lawn. (This is also a nice way to extend your vacation so you have less to do upon your return to reality).
- Utilize timers
Lamp timers are a great way to keep up the appearance that you are home even when you are not. Break-ins can occur while you are on vacation, or simply out for an evening, so utilize them all the time. It is best to move the timers occasionally so it is not obvious that a timer is being used.
On a similar note, do not leave a lot of lights on without a timer, as this too will stand out if a burglar is scouting a neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning.
- Unplug computers, television, stereo, toaster oven, etc.
During the summer, power surges are frequent due to electrical storms. Before you leave, unplug the many items that will not be in use during your absence. You will not only eliminate the risk of a power surge damaging these items, but also save on electricity.
- Do not announce to the world via Facebook, Twitter, etc. that you are not home
If you are someone who may not really be friends with all your “friends” on Facebook, do not post that you are gone. This is so hard to do because we all love to share our photos and experiences about something out of the ordinary routine, but save it for when you are back home. Potential robbers don’t have to work that hard if you are the one announcing to the world that you’re far away and won’t be back for several days/weeks. For a true story about how this has happened in New Hampshire, read this link from the New York Times.
- Move your valuables to an unexpected place
A bank safety deposit box is the best place to put your valuables. If this is not possible, be sure to move jewelry, guns, small electronics, silver, collectables, important documents, etc. to an unexpected place in your home. Many robbers are looking for a quick in and out and for items that can easily be converted to cash. If you have a jewelry box sitting on your bureau, then that is like taking candy from a baby. Move items under the bathroom sink, or into a linen closet, or food pantry, etc. If you are hiding a gun, be certain that it is not located where a child could find it.
- Remove the spare key
The fake rock or key under the mat is really counterproductive to any theft-protection steps you take to prevent loss. If someone suspects you are not home, it would be very easy for them to get into your house with a key. A better idea is to give each household member, and perhaps a trusted neighbor, a key for back-up and remove all keys from outside your home.
- Inform the police
Though it would have to be a coincidence to have the police catch a robbery in action, you may be able to prevent the break-in altogether if you tell the police you will be gone. This will most likely increase the police monitoring of your neighborhood which may be evident to a criminal.
- Walk through each room before your leave
If you visit each room before you leave, you can make sure that all windows and doors are locked and everything is off and all suit cases are ready to go. Taking the time to double check will, in the very least, give you peace of mind (ensuring that you unplugged the hair straightener or turned off the stove) and at best, prevent your home from being robbed or burning to the ground.
Enjoy your vacation!