Going away to visit family over Christmas? Closing the business or shop for a well-earned holiday? It’s worth being aware that with the prolonged holiday period co-inciding with the shortest day and those extra hours of darkness, there is usually an increase in burglaries in the UK – up to 20%, according to Aviva. So, if your home or business premises is going to be vacant, you’ll want to use our checklist to keep things as secure as possible…
Weatherproof and burglarproof in one
Gaps where draughts get in are also useful starting points for burglars who don’t mind a bit of breaking and entering. So, as you check your premises for weather protection, think burglar protection too:
- Fix any insecure windows or doors and any frames which show signs of damage or wear.
- Check seals and putty around glass as freezing moisture from snow and frost can get between the panes and shatter the glass, making it an easy point of entry for the worst of the weather and opportunist thieves.
- Attach security screens or grilles.
- Secure boundary fences against wind and intruders
- Insulating your property well will also make it more secure. Double glazed fixtures such as windows and doors add insulation and include good locks, whilst insulating all pipes minimises risk of burst pipes, the damage from which can make your property vulnerable to excessive damage and unwanted intruders, over time. If your property’s going to be home alone for a significant time, drain down the system as an added prevention.
Secure your outbuildings
Outside is also as important as your main building, particularly if you keep your bicycle or business tools there, as these are the top two items stolen by burglars in the UK. Other tools, such as ladders and crowbars could also be used by burglars to break into your main premises, so it does pay to step up security for your outbuildings, shed or garage too.
One thing which really deters burglars is knowing that the alarm will be raised if they try to gain entry:
- When you consider that the average cost of a winter burglary in the UK is £1,746 (Halifax Home Insurance), installing alarms or security equipment from a reputable service can be a cost-effective investment. With the British spending an average of £821 per person on Christmas presents (YouGov statistics) which may be sitting around your home, or if you have surplus stock left from the festive period on-site in your business, having an effective alarm system can really be worth thinking about.
- Make sure that alarms are monitored so that any incidents will be dealt with immediately, to keep your property secure and prevent would-be burglars from returning if they are unsuccessful with an initial break-in attempt.
- Install motion-activated outside lighting to key areas of risk, such as entrances and fire escapes, so that any intruder will be spot-lighted.
- Contract a security company or trusted person to make regular checks on your property or business premises. Ensure they have a key so that they can get in to check that all’s well.
- Make sure someone knows where and how to contact you in the event of difficulties or concerns.
Minimise signs of your absence
If you can give the appearance of your property still being occupied (particularly after dark), then this is also a useful deterrent:
- Use timer switches on specific lights to come on after dark.
- Invite trusted neighbours (business or residential) to park on your drive whilst you’re away – they might be glad of the extra parking for their own visitors and it will make your own property look busy.
- If the post piling up is likely to be a tell-tale sign that your property’s home alone, use the Royal Mail’s redirecting or Keepsafe Service instead. This also helps to secure your home against unseen thieves… fraudsters who might use your address in your absence as a means of gaining loans and credit cards or as a correspondence address for other fraudulent activities.
- Similarly, if you’re going to be away for a while, ask someone reliable to come and mow the lawn or put the rubbish bin out on the right day (even if it’s empty) to keep up appearances of normal routines and a daily presence.
- Even if you have fantastic views which you don’t usually cover with curtains or blinds, put some up whilst you are away, as uncovered windows offer a clue to opportunist thieves. Combining this with lights on timers can make a real difference to the after-dark security of your property.
Finally, although the film might be meant to be entertaining, you might seriously want to add a few tips from Home Alone into the checklist too:
- If you’re away but want to come home to your waiting presents, lock them away somewhere safe, don’t leave them wrapped and in sight under the tree. The same goes for other valuables in your house – lock them out of sight.
- Be careful who you mention your absence to and where you are, because you never know who else listening.
- Timers have been recommended, but if you’ve got someone coming into the house to keep and eye on it, close curtains and water plants, ask them to put the radio and a few extra lights on whilst they’re in the house, to make the lighting up times varied.
Taking sensible precautions to protect your vacant property over winter is not only a way to save stress and money, it’s also a way of making sure you can really relax and enjoy the holiday period.