In This Issue

Snowbird Smarts

Whether you’re flying south for the winter or just leaving for the week, make sure to prep your home to be alone

October 6, 2008
By Donna Kozik

Gerry and Jenny Zakovich love their vacation home in Pound, Wis., 200 miles from their home in South Milwaukee. They get there as often as they can during the summer, winter and in between, but sometimes the house is alone for months at a time.

As customers of Procter Insurance Agency, they’ve purchased the coverage they need in case things would go wrong with one house while they’re at the other. That coverage gives them the peace of mind from knowing their abodes are protected.

Still, there are lots of precautions they take to lessen the risk that something will happen. What they do to keep their homes safe can be used in any home that will be left alone for a while.

What to worry about

“It’s damage from storms and leaky pipes that really make us worry. A little bit of water can do a lot of harm in a short time,” Gerry says.

He takes no chances in prepping his abode to prevent water damage. He shuts off the water, plus drains the pump and water heater. This is especially important in the winter so that pipes don’t freeze. “If you’re leaving for just a short time, a good prevention for freezing pipes is to leave the heat on at least 55 degrees,” says Terry McConnell, ERIE’s manager of Personal Lines Underwriting.

Terry and Gerry both note that the best precaution you can take is to have a neighbor on the lookout for any kind of trouble—water, fire or burglars.

“They are your eyes and ears,” Gerry says. “I tell the neighbors that if something seems wrong, give me a call—don’t hesitate and don’t be shy.” He also leaves a key with a nearby friend to check in on things periodically.

In addition, Gerry puts lights on duty. A darkened home night after night sends the message that the house is empty, so he leaves a motion detector sensor on a light outside to deter burglars. Putting interior lights on timers and setting them to come on as if someone was in the house is a good technique, too.

Away for just a week

Another ERIE Policyholder, Richard Foley, lives in Boston, N.Y. He and his family visit their vacation home in Keuka Lake nearly every weekend.

Like the Zakovich family, the Foleys insure both homes, with the help of Linda Potwora in Derby, N.Y. And, they take a fair share of precautions before leaving it for the week.

“We make sure all the windows are closed and all the doors are locked. I check the heat, check the windows—check everything. I’m also very fire conscious and nothing is left plugged in,” says Richard. “A few preventions can eliminate a lot of pain.”

Taking the steps to make sure your home is safe and secure before you leave—in addition to having the right insurance coverage—means you’ll be able to relax and have a more carefree time away.

DownloadPDF document a printable checklist of things to do before flying away.


Donna Kozik is a writer, editor and marketing consultant located in San Diego. She is the co-author of 29 Days to a Smooth Move, a household moving manual.

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