Preparing Your Home for an Extended Absence

Before leaving your home, be prepared to deal with quite a bit of preparation. Gas and electrical systems, the mail, water and the police must all be considered. There are some basics that most of us are aware of, but they need to be reviewed now and again. First, don't make your absence obvious. Don't allow mail or newspapers to pile up on the front porch. And by all means, don't leave your garbage cans out. If your home has an alarm system be sure to activate it before you leave. If your alarm system is not monitored, ask a neighbor to call the police if the alarm sounds. Ask a trusted friend to keep an eye out for you. And before you walk out the door, be sure to make one final walk-through.

Gas Devices: Natural or propane gas appliances (and their pilot lights) pose danger. We suggest shutting the gas off at every appliance. If this isn't possible, your next best bet is to shut the gas off at the meter or supply tank. This is a great time to operate the valve and make sure that the proper wrench is in good condition. You can call it your annual gas-meter-wrench-emergency-shutdown practice run.

Electricity: The main breaker can't be disconnected if you expect to run any electrical appliances such as outdoor lights or an automatic sprinkler system, so other electrical and electronics equipment must be unplugged. Don't just turn the equipment off - unplug it. Small appliances, televisions and stereo equipment all can cause a fire if left connected. All it takes is one spark. Do you really want to leave the toaster plugged in that badly?

Water: A broken water pipe can cause thousands of dollars in damage by flooding the crawl space, basement and rooms of the home. One of the most effective means of preventing a flood is to turn off the main water source to the home. Be sure that turning off the water does not prevent your sprinkler system from continued operation. If it does then leave the main water source on and turn off the water to the dishwasher, washing machine, every sink and toilet, etc. individually.

Plants: Even if you create a map to your houseplants for a friend, invariably you will return home to find some dead foliage. Be smart. Don't leave a map. Instead, move all houseplants to one safe location. A bathtub works well. This way all your plants will be in one location and friends or family will not have to worry about where to water.

Garage door opener: Garage door openers still are a problem. A neighbor or a crook can accidentally open them with the right (or wrong) opener code. So, whatever you do, don't forget to unplug the opener motor for further protection against unauthorized or accidental opening of your garage.

Use this handy checklist for things to deal with before leaving:

        Shut off all gas appliances

        Disconnect all electrical and electronic appliances (stereo, toaster, radio, etc.)

        Turn off the water to the house or each individual in-house valve

        Gather plants together for easy watering

        Contact the garbage company

        Contact the post office

        Contact the police

        Contact the burglar alarm monitoring company

        Ask a neighbor to call the police if your unmonitored alarm goes off

        Contact trusted friends who will keep watch while you are away