BOISE – In the waning days of summer, many Idaho families will hit the road for a last-minute vacation before schoolwork and cold weather set in.  But AAA says it’s important to make sure your home is properly protected from theft and fire before you go.

According to the FBI, home burglaries increase during the summer months because vacations present an opportunity to target empty homes.  And with temperatures in the triple digits across much of Idaho this week, conditions are right for a fire to quickly grow out of control.

“Clearly, COVID-19 has thrown a big monkey wrench into most people’s summer travel plans, but many of us are still looking for some kind of a quick getaway before it’s all said and done,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde.  “Our goal is to help people travel with confidence, which is why home safety is such an important subject.”

Tips to protect your home from theft

  • Make it time-consuming to break in. Research suggests that if burglars think it will take more than four or five minutes to break into a home, they will move on to an easier target.  Thick doors, sturdy window frames, and deadbolts can make it harder for a thief to get in.
  • Invest in an effective burglar alarm and camera system.
  • Protect your electronics. Keep laptops and smaller devices out of sight.  Make sure your personal information is well protected by strong passwords and disconnect your devices from the Internet to prevent hackers from gaining access to your information.
  • Make your home look inhabited. A dark house, a pile of newspapers on the doorstep, a full mailbox, and an unkempt lawn are all signs that you are away.  Use timers to turn lights on, temporarily put a stop on the mail, and if you’re going to be gone for a longer vacation, hire someone to maintain your yard.
  • Be careful what you share, and when. “It can be so tempting to share our vacation activities in real time, but posting that information on social media can lead to a home invasion,” Conde said.  “It’s best to share a recap of your adventures when you get back.” 

Tips to protect your home from fire

  • Clear dry grass and brush at least 100 feet away from the house.
  • Keep flammable materials such as grills and firewood at least 30 feet away from any building.
  • Create a fire safety plan. If you are home when a fire breaks out, every family member needs to have a plan of where to meet up.  Practice your plan from time to time, and get pets involved in the fire drills, too.  Have an emergency kit ready to grab and go.
  • Protect your valuables. Keep important documents and items in a fireproof box.

“Even after you’ve done everything you can to protect your home, bad things can still happen,” Conde said.  “That’s why you need to document, document, document.  Take photos of your home and personal possessions, including the contents of attics, basements, garages, shops, and closets, and don’t forget to document expensive equipment like ATVs and riding lawnmowers.  Store a copy of all of this information in a cloud or web-based system so it can be retrieved if you need it.”

AAA encourages people to follow the recommendations of emergency personnel to evacuate during a wildfire if necessary, and to leave as soon as possible.  Both homeowners and renters should visit with their insurance agent to make sure they have adequate coverage for their homes and personal possessions.