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