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Do your “Homework” Before Your Summer Vacation: Protect Your Home from Losses While You’re Away

It’s summertime. Many of us are making packing lists, checking reservations and maintaining vehicles before our trips. Just don’t forget to prep your house before you lock the door and head out of town.  As a disaster restoration company, we’ve seen many homes severely damaged while the occupants were gone.  While we certainly need business, we prefer to help our clients prevent losses or minimize them when we can.  There are lists on the internet that can help you prepare, but here is ours:
Summer Vacation Camping
Camping one of Summer's Possibilities
  1. Hire a House Sitter/Pet Sitter if You Can.  Ask a responsible close friend or relative to stay at your home to effect the best “occupied” look for your home.  If you have the extra funds, you may even be able to hire someone.  That person can take care of your pets and your home, take in mail, newspapers, mow the lawn, move vehicles in and out, and generally make the house look “lived in.”
  2. Create a “Lived In” Look Otherwise. If #1 is not an option for you, do whatever you can to create an occupied look by having a neighbor collect mail and newspapers for you, have someone mow the lawn, set timers at different intervals on lamps and perhaps a radio inside.  You may even ask someone to park a car occasionally in the driveway.  If you have no other options, at least place a vacation hold on your mail and newspaper deliveries.
  3. Unplug all Unnecessary Appliances and Electronics. Even small appliances can use energy when turned off yet still plugged into an outlet. Unplugging them saves you money and protects the appliance in case of a lightning strike or power surge.
  4. Adjust Air Conditioning and Water Heater Temperatures.  Turn the AC temperature up 10 degrees higher than usual or program it for vacation mode, turning it back down just a few hours before your return. Turn the water heater down or on vacation mode.
  5. Prevent Odors. The garbage, garbage disposal and a stagnant toilet can harbor and develop unpleasant odors as well as bacterial growth. Before you leave, empty all trash, flush the disposal with ½ cup vinegar and hot water while running, and treat toilet water with ½ cup of bleach in the bowl to prevent malodors.
  6. Shut off Water.  Find your main water valve coming into the house, and turn it off before you leave.  You’d be surprised how much just one burst or leaky washer hose or ice maker can damage a house left empty for one week.  (Note, if you have a regularly scheduled automatic sprinkler system, you may not want to shut it off while gone.  Instead, turn off water after the main, going to other outlets if possible, or turn off the sprinkler system first.)
    Boating in Summer
    Summer is Boating Season too
  7. Be Discreet.  Who doesn’t get excited about vacation?  But as you prepare to leave your home, don’t broadcast the fact on a blog or social media.  You’ll also want to be careful what you discuss in public places where others may have access to your address (restaurants, retail outlets, etc.).  Also, don’t leave a GPS in your vehicle in a long-term lot at the airport, where thieves can use it to find your home after they break into your car.
  8. Have Someone Do a Regular Check on your Property.  It never hurts to have someone you trust keep an eye on things, check the doors and windows regularly or just watch the place, and make sure they have your phone number and perhaps even your insurance contact information.
  9. Have Emergency Information Handy.  Know a local restoration contractor you trust to use in case of an emergency loss.  If you’re in the St. Louis or Kansas City metro areas, you need only remember CATCO, Catastrophe Cleaning & Restoration Company.  We are a full-service disaster restoration company prepared to help you in case you have a loss small or large: from board-ups, water extraction and drying, to fire, smoke or storm damage or even crime scene clean-up, you need only call 1-800-642-2826.  Go to http://www.catcoinc.com/ for more information.
 
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