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When on Vacation
One of the times your home is most vulnerable is when it is left empty for an extended period of time. Darkened windows, unretrieved mail or newspapers and closed windows in hotter weather all advertise your absence to a potential burglar.
- The best protection for your apartment during your absence is to have a house sitter. A friend you trust staying at your house can take care of your pets and/or plants in addition to making sure the house is inhabited.
- Have a neighbor check on your apartment while you're away -- turning on lights, radios or TVs and opening and closing curtains will give your apartment the appearance of someone home.
- If you don't have a friend or neighbor to housesit or check your apartment while you're away -- perhaps even if you do -- you should keep not only lights but a TV or radio on a timer. If you're like many and have your TV on almost all the time you're home ("I don't watch it, it's just background noise"), the absence of the sound and that bluish light in the windows announces that you're not there.
- Make sure whoever is checking your apartment while you're away knows how to work your alarm system and who to call in case of a problem.
- Unless you have a house sitter, stop your mail and any newspaper or other delivery. Nothing announces an empty apartment better than a stack of newspapers or an overflowing mailbox. Ask a nearby neighbor to pick up any packages delivered while you're gone.
- If you have a garden or plants on your balcony, make sure someone is watering the plants regularly or put the plants where they can't be seen. Plants slowly dying due to lack of water may announce your absence.
- Check your lease. Many landlords require that you notify them if your apartment is going to be left empty for any period of time (this is so they can enter in case of emergency even if they can't reach you). If you've got a housesitter this isn't necessary.
Hotel Room Safety Tips
Worried about protecting yourself from dangerous strangers while traveling? Concerned about protecting your valuables from theft while staying in a hotel room? Here are some safety tips to keep in mind.
To protect yourself:
- Keep the door to your room locked at all times. If you are inside the room, turn the deadbolt and fasten the security chain.
- When you leave your hotel room, pull the door completely closed behind you. Make sure the latch has engaged. Take a moment before you leave to try the door and make sure it is closed and locked.
- Do not open your door to strangers. Use the security viewport to see who is outside your door. Do not trust someone claiming to be a hotel employee if you are not expecting one. If you are unsure, call the front desk to check. Leave the security chain engaged while opening the door for further protection.
- Check all windows and doors in your room every time you enter it and leave it to make sure they are closed and locked.
- When entering or leaving the hotel after dark, use the main entrance.
- If you travel often, consider buying a portable alarm system to hang on the doorknob for added protection. These movement-sensitive devices can awaken you if a door lock should happen to fail.
To protect your valuables:
- Use the safe provided in the room to store keys, wallets, extra cash and credit cards, jewelry, and other small valuable items you are leaving in the room. If no safe is supplied, check with the front desk. They may have locked storage available for your use.
- Don't leave cash, travelers checks and expensive electronics and jewelry lying around the room.
- Leave larger expensive or breakable objects at home, if at all possible. If you must bring them, store them in the closet and out of the way of the cleaning crew.
By using your common sense and taking a few precautions while on the road, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from danger and hang on to your possessions.
- Do not discuss your business or travel plans in public areas where they may be overheard. Discuss your travel plans and movements during your stay with as few people as possible.
- Selecting a hotel room on the third to fifth floor generally will keep you out of reach of criminal activity from the street but still within reach of most fire truck ladders.
- Do not entertain strangers in your hotel room.
- Be alert to overly friendly locals who may have criminal intentions. They may offer to take you to a “special” restaurant. Their ruse may be to offer drugged refreshments.
- Never leave valuables in your hotel room exposed or unattended, even in a locked suitcase.
- Place valuables—money, jewelry, airplane tickets, credit cards, passport—in a hotel safe deposit box or room safe.
- Familiarize yourself with escape routes in case of fire or other catastrophe.
- Use the door chain or bolt lock whenever you are in your room.
- Use the door viewer (peephole) before opening the door to visitors.
- Do not discuss your room number while standing in the lobby or leave your room key on restaurant or bar tables.
- Keep your room neat so you will notice disturbed or missing items quickly.
Staying Safe When Traveling
Be especially vigilant when traveling. Hotels and motels are prime crime areas. Follow these tips to help you stay safe when traveling:
- Call the front desk if someone suspicious is lurking about or tries to gain entry to your room, using some excuse such as that he or she “must check your TV.”
- Watch out for ruses. Many travelers fall victim to criminals posing as employees. Always verify by calling the front desk. Some criminals manipulate legitimate employees to gain access to your room.
- If you're going on a trip or are a constant traveler, purchase one or two portable door alarms that attach to the doorknob. You can find these alarms in electronics supply stores. If someone tries to enter your front door or the door between your room and an adjacent one, he or she will activate a high-pitched siren. You can also purchase portable alarms with a built-in delay to place on the inside of the door while you're out. Be aware, however, that the delay feature is not good for direct personal protection when you're in.
- If you have valuables, put them in the hotel safe.
- If you suspect that something is wrong before entering your room, have a staff member check it first.
- You can always have your room cleaned while you're present.
- Keep a “Do not disturb” sign on your door and a radio or TV playing while you're out.
- Always find out who's calling you in your room. Don't give your name until you're satisfied you've got a legitimate caller. If the caller says they're from room service, ask their name and verify by calling room service. If they say they're calling from the front desk, call the front desk back and verify.
- If you're out partying, whether away from home or not, be aware that there are many kinds of drugs that can be slipped into your drink by a person who has gained your confidence. Do not leave drink unattended. Get to know who you're dealing with.
- Allowing them to return to your room with you is dangerous.
- Keep conversations with cab drivers or hotel personnel courteous, but don't give our personal information. It may be used for criminal purposes.
- Remain sober while traveling. The need may arise for you to take physical steps to survive.
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