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Vacations leave homes vulnerable

It’s time to go on vacation. Bags packed, car loaded, you lock the door and think — is my house going to be OK while I’m gone? A lot can happen to a house at any time, but especially when no one’s there to handle a sudden problem. Considering most burglaries occur in summer months there’s even more reason to take pause.

My neighbor once contacted me while I was out of town because he saw water shooting out of the side of my house — a busted pressure regulator (or pressure-reducing valve). Even though I shut my water off to the interior of the house (like a smart homeowner should), the exterior water, left on for the pool and landscape, still caused trouble. If it weren’t for my neighbor that shut down my water main, I would have lost who knows how many hundreds of gallons of water, not to mention inevitable water damage.

What happens if we don’t have a neighbor or someone around that we trust to keep an eye on our house? Boulder City residents are lucky enough to not only live in the safest city in Nevada (according to Alarms.org 2021, FBI Uniform Crime Report review), but our police department offers a vacation check. All you have to do is fill out a brief form, submit it to the police department, and a volunteer with the Boulder City Police Department will check on your home while you’re away.

They’ll look for things that seem out of place, like an open window or sprinklers left on, and call your provided contact, or radio the police if it’s something more suspicious.

“Vacation check is an excellent free service offered by the Boulder City volunteer police department, and volunteers are very enthusiastic that they can provide it,” explains Patrick Richardson, volunteer coordinator for the department.

Go to BCNV.org and search “vacation check request form.”

Someone checking on your home will certainly offer some piece of mind, but there’s more we can do before leaving that will add layers of security and confidence.

Here’s a quick checklist:

▶ As mentioned, shutting off water to your home’s interior will avoid floods from a potential broken valve or a pipe burst. Power off your water heater, unplug your water softener and raise the “arm” on your ice maker so it stops making ice. Since you turned off the house water, their motors can become damaged as they keep trying to pull water.

▶ Power surges can majorly damage electronics. Unplug TVs, computers, stereos, etc. or make sure they’re plugged safely into a surge protector.

▶ Put a hold on mail with the United States Postal Service, or ask someone to retrieve mailings and deliveries. Nothing screams “empty house” more than a buildup of mail or newspapers.

▶ Place timers on multiple lights and a radio to turn on and off intermittently throughout the day and evening.

▶ Keep a car in the driveway or have a neighbor park in your driveway while you’re gone so it appears there’s someone home.

▶ Install a video doorbell or security camera. It’s never been easier to see who’s around your house with technology from companies like Ring. Even if you don’t use a smart phone (needed for these systems) a family member can get alerts if someone comes to your door and respond accordingly. Often prowlers will first knock to see if someone’s home. With systems like this, you can answer your door, even if you’re not there.

▶ Don’t make social media announcements about being out of town. Even though you may trust your “friends” and “followers,” you just never know who else could become privy to this information who has ill intentions.

▶ Don’t leave anything valuable in plain sight. Often a prowler is looking for any easy “smash and grab.” They want in an out quickly. Most targeted items are: cash, electronics, drugs, guns and jewelry. Secure valuables in a safe or safety deposit box.

▶ Most obviously, lock all doors and windows and if you have an alarm or monitoring system, let them know the dates you will be away.

Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.

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