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Give your holiday peace of mind

You're packing your bags for the long haul down to the coast and you should be looking forward to the wonderful time you'll soon be having. Instead, because crime is a reality in South Africa, you're preoccupied with the security of your home while you'll be away.

It's an unfortunate fact that incidents of burglary increase by 8% in December in South Africa (in addition to an increase in the months leading up the festive season), and when we go away the likelihood of our homes being broken into increases considerably. That's not a pleasant thought when you're heading away for a well-earned break, but there are some steps you can take to increase the security of your home over December.

Service your alarm system and tell your security company you'll be away
If you have an alarm installed in your house, it's very easy to get lulled into the false sense of security that it works just fine. It's a complex electronic system and it needs maintenance. Call your security company to let them know you'll be testing it then check that each room or entry point triggers a response. Many security companies will do this test and maintenance for you for free or for a nominal call-out fee.

If you don't have an alarm system, it's a good idea to get some quotes. Many security companies will offer a free installation if you sign up with them but be careful of getting caught up in a lengthy contract as a result.

You should also let your security company know that you'll be away, ask them to do extra patrols and give them your contact numbers. Put a plan in place so that if anyone needs to get into your property they can leave keys with a friend or neighbour.

Get the security basics right
No amount of pre-holiday planning can make up for a house that's badly secured to start with. The South African Police Service offers these detailed steps for securing your home, all year around. Some of the most relevant points to bear in mind are that you should put away all garden tools that could be used to smash a window or jack open a sliding door, put up an electric fence or razor wire around the perimeter and install motion detection lights and security gates across doorways. 

Again, before you go on holiday, make sure that your perimeter is secure by walking around the exterior of your property and making plans to fix any vulnerable points in your fence or gates.

Put your valuables away
When you go away, make sure you put all your valuables like jewelry, spare keys and electronic items in a safe, along with your important documents like marriage and birth certificates and passports (if you're not using them). If your house is broken into, at least you won't have to face the heartbreak of losing your grandmother's jewelry or the admin of replacing your paperwork.

Arrange a presence on the property
Having a trusted house sitter stay in your home is the best kind of security, but not everyone can find or afford to have someone stay while they are on holiday. If you don't have a trusted friend or cousin and can't get a professional house sitter, consider arranging to have someone drop in once or twice a day to switch lights on and off and make sure the house looks lived in. It's a good idea for this person to come at different times, so that no prospective burglar can learn their routine.

This person can also clear accumulated mail in the post box a dead giveaway that no one's home and do other simple tasks like clearing away leaves and debris from the driveway and entrance.

Get in touch with the neighbours
Even if you aren't friendly with your neighbours, you should let them know that you'll be away and when you'll be back. Give them the numbers where you can be reached and provide them with a description of any person that is allowed onto your property.

Ensure holiday safety
You're probably worried about leaving your home alone while you're away, but many people forget that they are also at risk at their holiday destinations. Don't become tourist blind and ignore the risks while you're on vacation. Speak to the locals about safety at night and in remote areas before embarking on any adventures and secure your holiday home exactly as you would your actual home.

And remember to be vigilant of your personal belongings when you are on the beach or sightseeing and it's easy to get distracted.

Make sure you're covered
While all these tips are focused on preventing theft and break-ins, unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, sometimes bad things do happen. In the event that this happens to you, it will be far easier to pick up the pieces if you have the appropriate insurance in place. Speak to your insurer to make sure that your household contents are adequately insured, and that you have cover for any portables you are taking away with you.

You can also get insurance for caravans, trailers and motorbikes, so be sure to keep your policy up to date.

Stay safe
Remember that the most important thing about taking a holiday is returning safely to a home that's as you left it. Don't take any unnecessary risks over the holiday season, look after yourself and don't drink and drive. We wish you well over the holidays and a very happy New Year.

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