Protect home while away

Published 10:08 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

The holidays often see families and friends gather under one roof for fellowship, celebrations and gift exchanges.

Consequently, they also see more burglaries and house fires particularly when people leave their homes unattended for days at a time.

Those planning to travel for the holidays can safeguard their homes against possible fires, burglaries and other damage.

Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer said four of the main precautions people can take to secure their homes against break-ins and theft while out of town are to lock all doors and windows; leave several interior and exterior lights on; leave at least one car in the driveway; and ask a neighbor, relative or friend to check on their house periodically.

“Definitely let your trustworthy neighbors know,” Fulmer said. “Leave a lamp on or something that may lead someone to believe that someone is still home. Burglars will check the house. If they found an open door or open window, they won’t have to force entry.”

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell recommended using automatic timers for lights and programming them to illuminate different rooms at different times.

“We encourage automatic timers so it looks like the house is still being lived in,” Stilwell said. “The biggest thing is to close those blinds so they won’t see those packages. That’s a telltale sign of what loot might be available inside the house.”

Fulmer said motion-activated lights on the exterior of a home can also help deter burglars.

“Someone approaching the house and the lights come on—chances are they’ll turn around and leave the house,” Fulmer said. “The more lighting, the better.”

Mail delivery is another aspect to consider when leaving town. Ways to avoid a pile of papers and parcels from accumulating at one’s house is to ask a family member or neighbor to check the mail and collect it regularly, or arrange for the post office to hold mail.

“I definitely wouldn’t let it sit,” Fulmer said.

Stilwell said to avoid placing boxes from gifts outside the night before they are to be removed.

“Try to get them out the morning of trash pickup,” he said. “People will scour the trash to find out what new electronics are in other people’s homes.”

Clanton Fire Chief David Driver provided ways to prevent house fires including unplugging all Christmas lights before leaving; turning off space heaters overnight and unplugging when not in use; and containing fires in fireplaces and properly disposing of ashes.

“The main thing around Christmas is that they not leave their Christmas lights on especially if they’ve got a real tree, not an artificial tree,” Driver said. “A real tree will dry out. Don’t leave space heaters on overnight, whether you’re there or not.”

Driver suggested placing a screen in front of fireplaces to prevent sparks from flying out and igniting with furniture, and then making sure no materials are still burning when disposing of the ashes or hot coals.

Regarding space heaters, Driver said to leave at least 3 feet of space around the heater on all sides to prevent furniture, curtains or bed linens from catching fire.

“You don’t want anything close to them,” Driver said.

People are encouraged to call their local police and fire departments in the event of an emergency or to report any suspicious activity.

“Let us check it out,” Stilwell said. “That’s what we’re here for.”