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Baltimore County Now

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Natalie Litofsky, Public Safety Office of Media and Communications

photo of house in winterIf you’re planning to take a vacation this holiday season, it’s important for you to add home security to your travel safety checklist. There are simple precautions you can take to keep your home protected from both theft and damage. Just a few extra minutes spent securing your home will help give you the peace of mind to enjoy your trip.

Lock all doors and windows

While most people remember to lock the main door of the home, it’s important to check all the entry points to the house. This includes sliding doors, basement doors, and the interior door that leads to the garage. It’s also essential to lock the windows on each level of your home, not just the ground floor.

Turn off electronics

To help save on energy costs and avoid potential hazards, turn off and unplug small electronics while you’re away. Examples would be items such as a toaster, coffee maker, hair dryer or fan. Larger electronics such as computers and televisions should be plugged into a surge protector in case of sudden power loss.

Water and heat

If you live in an area where pipes are likely to freeze, it’s important to make sure your furnace stays running while you’re away. Most programmable thermostats have a “vacation mode” that will keep your home above freezing while still conserving energy. If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, you may want to consider turning off the water supply from outside your home and draining the pipes.

Perform a maintenance check

Check to be sure there are fresh batteries in your smoke detectors. Make sure that exterior lights have working bulbs to keep the property illuminated at night, and use a timer to turn them on and off. You should also prepare for the possibility of snow while you’re on vacation. Arrange for someone to shovel your walkways and driveway while you’re out of town. Not only is this important for the safety of your neighbors, but it also prevents would-be burglars from knowing the home is not occupied.

Notify a neighbor

Tell a trusted neighbor the dates you’re leaving and returning home. If they know you’re out of town, they’ll be more likely to notice and report suspicious activity. If you’ll be away for more than a day, ask if they’re willing to collect your mail and newspapers. A pile of unclaimed mail is a red flag for would-be thieves that nobody is home. If there is no one available to collect your mail, you can also speak with the post office about stopping mail delivery for the duration of your trip.

Don’t broadcast your location

Social media sites are great ways to keep in touch with friends and family, but they’re also great tools for burglars to use in choosing targets. Don’t post photos or statements that would let someone know that you’re away from home. You should also refrain from using a location “check-in” app that places you out of town. If you want to keep in touch with a friend or family member while you’re away, do so using a more private form of communication such as an email or text message.


safety sign with jack-o-lantern imageNatalie Litofsky, Public Safety Office of Media and Communications

From the spooky decorations to the scary costumes, Halloween is a holiday that embraces the fun side of fear. Though zombies and vampires are imaginary dangers, it’s important to watch out for a real safety hazard on Halloween – cars.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Halloween is the second-deadliest day of the year for pedestrians.

Parents and children alike should remember these road safety tips while trick-or-treating:

·        Trick-or-treat while there is still daylight. The sun sets around 6 p.m., so keep this in mind when planning your route. Talk with your neighbors in advance to let them know you’ll be trick-or-treating earlier in the evening.

·        Stay within a familiar neighborhood. This is the best way to travel where you know there are safe places to cross the street.

·        Be a role model when it comes to obeying pedestrian traffic laws. Cross only at a crosswalk or intersection, and only when signal indicates you may cross. Tell your kids to walk on the sidewalk. If there are no walkways, stay as close to the curb as possible.

·        Provide children with flashlights or other non-flammable light sources so they can see and be seen while walking. Glow bracelets or reflective tape are also a good way to increase visibility after dark.

·        If your child’s costume includes a mask, make sure the eye holes do not obstruct vision. Try a test walk down a hallway in your home to practice looking for traffic while wearing a mask.

·        Kids should always be accompanied by an adult while trick-or-treating. As a general rule, it’s best to have one adult for every three to six children.

·        If you are driving a car on Halloween, be aware of the increase in pedestrian traffic. Obey the posted speed limit, make sure your headlights are on and keep an eye out for pedestrians along the roadway.

More useful information on pedestrian safety can be found online at Baltimore County’s Walk Safe resource page.
Walk Safe logo


image of man peeking through keyholeBaltimore County Police Sergeant Pat Stonko, Burglary Unit

The blog title sums up what some criminals think about this time of year. There are some things to think about whether you’re on your way to the ocean or staying at home.



 

  • Burglars are opportunists and look for the easiest way in. Unlocked doors and windows make life simple for a burglar. If you can, resist the temptation to leave windows ajar at night, or when you go out during the day when the weather gets hot. It’s easy to pry a window open if given a little wiggle room at the bottom of the window.
  • You can’t always stop burglars, but you can deter them by making it difficult to enter your home.
  • Sheds and garages are targeted more in the summer months. They often have bicycles and lawn equipment inside.  Heavy duty locks on sheds slow down a criminal and may deter him altogether. 
  • Have a family member or trusted neighbor pick up your mail and all other deliveries. Piles of mail in the mailbox are clues to your absence.
  • Going away? The world can wait to see your vacation pictures until you get home.
  • Share memorable moments with family and friends through texts or emails. Steer clear of social media when you’re on the road.
  • Use location spotters on smart phones with caution. The GPS tells your friends and family where you are. The spotter is also a helpful tool for a burglar. He can estimate how long he has to steal your valuables before you arrive home.
  • There are people we inadvertently tell that we are we going away:  the bank cashier, the cashier at the store, the person at the doctor’s office. We are so excited at the prospect of a vacation, we need to share it. Be careful sharing your plans with people you don’t know.
  • If possible, check your credit cards and bank cards while you’re away. This will help you guard against credit card or identity theft while you’re having fun.
  • Check your smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors before you leave for vacation or that quick, one day get-away. If a fire breaks out, the alarm could save your home and maybe a neighbor’s home as well.

Have a nice summer, have a great vacation and when driving, be sure to buckle up.


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