The GCC enjoys a relatively crime-free reputation. And it seems to be getting safer: in 2008 in the UAE, the incidence of serious crime was 255.53 per 100,000 residents, which dropped to 83.7 in 2011. Even so, it’s always worth making sure your home is as secure as possible before leaving to go on holiday. And it’s not all about protecting yourself from crime. Forgetting to switch off lights can result in a nasty surprise when it comes to paying your electric bill, while neglecting to inform the gardener that you’re going away can mean you return home to a desert come the end of summer.
Have security watch your house
Whether you’re disappearing on holiday for a while, or have to leave town for another reason, the security guards at your building or compound can keep an eye on your property for you until you get back. If you’ve informed them you won’t be around, they can keep an eye out for anything suspicious, including visitors claiming your residence as their destination. Make sure to advise them as well of any plans for house sitters or people who will be coming in and out: that way, they can better ensure only people you’ve given keys to get in. Don’t have security guards? If you’re friendly with your neighbours and trust them, it might not be a bad idea to let them know your holiday plans: a neighbour will notice lights on that aren’t meant to be, strange cars, or people coming and going if they know no one’s home. And, if you’re going to be gone for a lengthy period, you might want to arrange for a friend to pop in every few weeks regardless. They’ll be able to catch any problems earlier, which makes them easier to solve. While they’re at it, have them turn your car on for a few minutes every few days if you’re leaving it behind: cars left unattended in the summer heat may have problems starting when you return.
Water and electricity
Whether or not to turn your air-conditioning off is often debated, but keeping your thermostat around 25°C allows it to come on a little every day, and is a good way to protect any electronics you may have left behind that could get damaged if left to heat up. Keeping humidity low also helps protect your furniture. Switch off all electrical appliances at the mains. Leaving things like TVs and DVD players on standby still uses around 60 per cent as much electricity. Switch the outlets off at the wall. As a courtesy to your neighbours, you may also want to switch off anything that has an alarm timer set. The same should be said for water – make sure all taps are turned tightly off, and if you think you may have a leak, call in a plumber before you go. A small drip over a few weeks could lead to a hefty bill upon your return, and you don’t want that adding to your post-holiday blues. If you’re uncertain about a leak or whether your A/C is working properly, get a professional in to make sure everything is in order.
Give the gardeners keys to your back gate so they can still get in to maintain your carefully-cultivated flora. If you’ve put a lot of time, effort and money into creating your own little oasis, the last thing you want is to come back to something that better resembles a desert. The same goes for watering indoor and balcony plants, and a good maid service will often take care of this for you – it’s also a good idea to have someone dusting if you’re away for more than a month.
It may seem obvious, but pets being left to fend for themselves is not unheard of. If leaving animals at home, enlist a friend to stop by not just to top up food and water, but also to ensure the animals get exercise and aren’t getting too hot (a breakdown with your AC could be deadly to your pets). Alternatively have a kennel or cattery put your pets up. Many vet offices have boarding available, including Park View Pet Center (www.parkviewpetcenter.net) in custom made cat condos and dog areas. Qatar Animal Welfare Society (www.qaws.org) also has a boarding section, with funds going to support the shelter.
• Draw the blinds and curtains to keep out as much heat as is possible.
• Take down any parasols. Even a mild shamal could result in damage to your property.
• Bin perishable foods in the fridge or cupboards – except bread and leftover crisps, which will be eaten by birds in no time if sprinkled over the lawn, balcony or window sill.