Go­ing away for the hol­i­days? Tips to keep your house safe and sound

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

IF YOU’VE got the builders in and it looks as though the work will not be fin­ished when the builders’ hol­i­days start on Fri­day – make it Thurs­day be­cause Fri­day will be clean-up time, and end-of-year braai etc – keep a cool head. Ac­cept the fact that cer­tain things will not be fin­ished and it is bet­ter to wait and have things fin­ished prop­erly in the new year. Think about the quiet four weeks you are go­ing to have, with no mess and no noise.

If you have been left with a halffin­ished job, whether you are liv­ing in the prop­erty or not, en­sure that you are prop­erly se­cure. Halffin­ished build­ings will at­tract un­wanted visi­tors, so use as many locks, chains, tem­po­rary gates and what­ever you can do to make it safe.

In­sist – and here I have no prob­lem with your go­ing head-to­head with your con­trac­tor – that he leaves a clean and tidy site. You don’t want your neigh­bours com­plain­ing that your sand pile is blow­ing over their Christ­mas lunch, or there is a con­tin­ual stream of old noisy bakkies try­ing to col­lect bricks or other ma­te­ri­als left ly­ing around.

If you need some help/mus­cle with this, phone your lo­cal build­ing in­spec­tor. It is one of their du­ties to en­sure that all sites are clean, neat, tidy and safe at all times; your builder can be fined for not com­ply­ing with th­ese reg­u­la­tions.

● If you’re go­ing away for the hol­i­days, here are a few things to re­mem­ber.

As we are now well into the south-easter sea­son, give the roof another once-over to check that ev­ery­thing is well-se­cured and that no tiles or other items are miss­ing. Make sure that all over­hang­ing trees have been cut back away from the gut­ters, and that they are not block­ing any alarm beams.

Check that your alarm sys­tem is work­ing – many peo­ple do not set their alarms daily and sud­denly dis­cover at the last minute there is a prob­lem. Re­mem­ber to no­tify your re­sponse com­pany that you will be away and give them the rel­e­vant con­tact num­bers. Con­firm that the back-up bat­tery is in good con­di­tion and will func­tion if there are power fail­ures.

Don’t for­get to check the con­di­tion of bat­ter­ies which may run other items, such as timers, smoke de­tec­tors, ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems and so on.

Af­ter a great break, no­body wants to come home and dive into a green swim­ming pool, so check that the pump is in work­ing or­der, that the right chem­i­cals have been added for the time you’ll be away, and that the timer is set for longer than usual.

If you use gas for cook­ing and heat­ing, en­sure that all sup­plies are switched off. For real safety’s sake, dis­con­nect the cylin­ders.

Check that all door locks are work­ing, and that se­cu­rity screens are func­tion­ing. Lock in­di­vid­ual room doors be­hind you, re­move the keys and ei­ther take them with you or leave them with your neigh­bour. Have all bro­ken win­dow panes fixed and check that all win­dows close prop­erly and that the catches are func­tional.

If your gar­den is wa­tered from a well point or bore­hole, turn your coun­cil wa­ter off at the mains, oth­er­wise switch off all stop­cocks and en­sure that all taps are switched off. It is amaz­ing how many homes are flooded while peo­ple are away. Once ev­ery­thing is switched off, check that the wa­ter me­ter is not turn­ing; this is the best method of check­ing you have no leaks.

Fi­nally, switch all un­nec­es­sary elec­tric­ity off at the dis­tri­bu­tion board. Where cir­cuits are live, un­plug all ap­pli­ances from the plug sock­ets; an item left on standby is live, and this, to­gether with over­loaded adap­tors, is one of the main causes of do­mes­tic fires.

Re­mem­ber the old faith­fuls, en­sure some­one is col­lect­ing your post, pick­ing up news­pa­pers and hav­ing the garbage col­lected – all dead give­aways for po­ten­tial bur­glars.

Last year at this time I briefly men­tioned the grow­ing trend of dec­o­rat­ing the ex­te­rior of your house with Christ­mas lights, and I fin­ished that ar­ti­cle with a re­port of a house that had burned down, so here are a few tips to keep you safe.

● Don’t use any old dec­o­ra­tions that may have frayed cords, cracked light hold­ers, or loose con­nec­tions.

● If you’re chang­ing bulbs, re­mem­ber to un­plug the string first, and check you’re re­plac­ing the bulbs with bulbs that match the orig­i­nals – same wattage and volt­age.

● Re­mem­ber to turn the lights off if you leave the house or when you go to bed.

● If pur­chas­ing a new sys­tem en­sure that it is prop­erly cer­ti­fied.

● Don’t start plug­ging adap­tors into adap­tors or ex­ten­sion leads into ex­ten­sion leads; be safe rather than sorry. En­sure leads are not tan­gled and that the ex­ten­sion lead is fully un­wound – if you are draw­ing heavy cur­rent through a wound-up ex­ten­sion lead it soon over­heats.

● If you are putting lights out­side, en­sure that all con­nec­tions are off the ground and away from any met­al­work. Use plas­tic clips and in­su­lated tape for fix­ing – do not use metal nails or tacks.

● If you are us­ing a lad­der, make sure it is the right one for the job and that it is prop­erly se­cured.

● In­side, check that your Christ­mas tree is well away from any naked flames.

● Be pre­pared for emer­gen­cies: hosepipes and fire ex­tin­guish­ers must be in easy reach.

Keep your ques­tions or com­ments com­ing to don@ma­cal­is­ter. co.za or SMS only to 082 446 3859.

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