Secure your home when you’re not in it

Friday, February 27, 2015

Thechronicleherald.ca  by Katie Ingram

When planning for a vacation or trip there are many things that need to done before leaving a home unoccupied for an extended period of time.

While many pre-vacation tasks include checking what time a flight leaves or making hotel reservations Gary McConnell, supervisor for the Mobile Patrol at security company Commissionaires Nova Scotia, and former RCMP officer, notes homeowners also have to make sure their home is secure and safe. This can be done making it look like someone is living there.

“It keeps up appearances that life is normal in that residence and doesn’t give the impression that people have gone away,” he says. Homeowners can put their lights on automatic timers, stop mail delivery, keep a car in the driveway and have services, such as yard work and snow removal, continue as scheduled.

Beyond this, homeowners should also make sure that they have someone checking their home every few days, such as a trusted friend or family member. They can also choose to hire a security company, like Commissionaires who have a Home Watch service, to make sure everything is secure and utilities and other devices are working properly.

“We [Commissionaires] ask clients if they have had any problems with pipes before they leave,” says McConnell, using frozen water pipes as an example of an issue that can arise. “If they do, we get a heat gun and if the pipes are getting frosty we do something to unfreeze them.”

Beyond this, there is one other important job that should be done before a person leaves on a vacation or trip. They need to check with their insurance company to update their broker on the situation and to review their insurance policy.

“You need to make sure you’re aware of any exclusions, requirements or actions that need to be taken while you’re away, so your claim is covered and you’re not in a situation where your claim is denied,” says Gina McFetridge, vice president of Archway Insurance.

McFetridge finds that in relation to home checks or monitoring, many people might also have strict rules and stipulations that can differ from insurance company to insurance company. She recommends that clients make sure they know what exact security measures they need to take before leaving.

“One policy may say you need a competent individual looking in daily or you need an alarm system,” she says. “Some companies say if you have an alarm system in place you don’t need a person looking in every day.”

Along with physically making sure the home is secure, McConnell says there is something else a person should consider that doesn’t involve notifying insurance brokers or locking doors.

“Do not go on Facebook and other social media and say you’re going away on a trip,” he says. “You’d be surprised at how many homes are broken into because people talked about it [their trip] on social media and they don’t know who they are really talking to.”

However, McConnell also cautions homeowners that while these tasks might seem like something they wouldn’t forget, they often are.

“Once you hear of the things that need to be done you think, ‘well that’s just common sense,’ but a lot of people don’t think of it.”