Heading Away This Xmas? Here’s 12 Top Tips To Protect Your Property While You’re Gone

THE festive season is well and truly upon us and families across Northern Ireland will be finishing their Christmas shopping, catching up on seasonal socialising and preparing for the big day itself.

However, amongst all the excitement of the holidays, December also brings an increased risk for households as burglars seek to take advantage of the dark winter evenings to target homes filled with Christmas presents.

Here are Mercury Security Management’s top 12 ways to protect your home this season:

1. Lock before you leave

Before you leave the house for parties or Christmas shopping, lock all doors and windows, even the upstairs ones. Fit restrictors on windows if possible as thieves can wriggle through any gap larger than a human head. Fit locks at the top and bottom of patio doors.

2. Be alarmed

Don’t forget to set your burglar alarm. In the excitement of Christmas activity, it is not uncommon for people to forget to do the obvious! Visible alarms make burglars think twice and make sure to get your system serviced regularly.

3. Make your home look occupied

Try to put burglars off by giving the impression that there is still someone in the house. Leave the lights on in living areas and draw the curtains. If you’re out of town visiting relatives, maybe fit a timer to lamps around the house, so that they will automatically switch on at dusk.

4. Keep your car secure

Use your car alarm or steering lock and don’t leave items in your car that could be tempting to burglars, like Sat Nav or stereo systems, CDs or big bags of Christmas presents! Always put your car in the garage if you have one and make sure the garage is locked.

5. Don’t advertise the fact that you’re outIf you’re going away for a seasonal break, as some people do, be careful about who you tell and what information you post on social networking sites. Check your social media settings to see who has access to your personal details and try to limit to friends only – otherwise strangers (and potential burglars) can see everything you post and will know your house is currently empty.

6. Shed your fears – make sure that outbuildings such as sheds and garages – where many Christmas presents are stored ahead of the big day – are locked and alarmed, and securely store any ladders, tools or ornaments that could be used to break windows and doors and help burglars break into to your home. Don’t leave shed or garage keys in view as windows can easily be smashed to reach them and gain entry.

7. Inspect your gadgets – ensure that mobiles, laptops and other gadgets are hidden from view. Use an ultraviolet pen to mark items of value, such as televisions and DVD players, with your postcode and house number. This will help police to identify your property more easily if it’s stolen. Try to make sure that larger valuable items, such as guitars, TVs and stereos, can’t easily be seen through windows. Leaving valuable items, including car and house keys, on show gives burglars an incentive to break into your home.

8. Protect your pets – don’t leave pets outside on dark evenings and when you are not at home. Pet theft is on the increase in Northern Ireland and even crossbreeds and mongrels can be of value to unscrupulous people.

9. See the light– make sure your outdoor lighting is working and is on a sensor. Visible alarms that light up at night will also make burglars think twice about targeting your house.

10. Gnome sweet gnome – never leave garden items or ornaments outside during the winter months – they can be used to break windows and doors or cause general damage to cars and property.

11. Everybody needs good neighbours – neighbours should stick together so ask people living close by to keep an eye on the house while you’re out. If you’re out of town, give someone key so they can come in, draw the curtains and help make the house look like it’s lived in. It’s a good idea to leave your keys with someone you trust along with details of how to contact you in the event of an emergency.

12. Ensure you’re insuredcheck your household insurance cover. Opening up your home to visitors can expose you to potential insurance claims and lawsuits.