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Carefree vacation

For the last 365 days, you have given your employer a good chunk of your life, your children have been in school and your spouse shares your fate.

However, get ready, because it's time for the family vacation.

Leisure and relaxation dictate your vacation.

Most people make elaborate plans on where they'll go, how they'll get there and what they'll do when they get there and how long they'll stay.

However, while you plan for your vacation, remember you should also plan for the time for your car, home and property.

One of the first signs that potential burglars look for is mail stacking up in a box or newspapers piling up.

According to Postmaster Edward Alexander Jr. with the U.S. Postal Service in Greenville, simply call them and they'll hold your mail for you.

"They can call the post office and let us know that they are going to be out of town for a certain time," he said. "If they want, they can leave a note in their mailbox with their signature that states they are going to be out of town and when they want their mail service restarted. They can also drop by the post office and fill out a card."

Alexander said on the restart date, they'd redeliver the mail held.

"We can do a redeliver or if they like, they can also drop by the post office and pick it up," he said. "Either way is fine."

As for the newspapers, most large daily newspapers have customer service representatives who do nothing more than handle hold requests.

They can be found in the masthead, usually on page 2.

If you don't want to worry about calling anyone, ask a dependable neighbor to pick up the mail and also the newspapers.

For burglars who

According to Sheriff Diane Harris, for those citizens who live outside a municipality, her office will happily check on your property while you are away.

She said people need to alert her office.

"Notify your most trusted neighbors and notify us before you leave," she said.

"We will put their home on House Watch for the duration of their being gone."

Harris said sheriff deputies look after homes on House Watch.

"We basically go around to the homes and look at the house and make sure it is secure," she said.

"We also ask that they leave a contact number so that if something does happen, we can get in touch with them as quickly as possible."

The sheriff said it is important that you keep your plans relatively quiet.

"They shouldn't spread it around all over the country that they are going out of town," she said.

"The fewer people who know about their trip the better off they are."

To get your home on House Watch, call 382-6521.

The sheriff said it is important to maintain the look of someone being at the home.

She said if you normally use a yard service, then it should continue or if you have regular pool service, then it should continue as well.

Another option is to have a trusted neighbor, friend or relative keep an eye on your home while you are gone. They can pick up newspapers and mail each day, and accept deliveries to give the appearance that someone is home.

A vehicle that sits idle for too long is also a signal.

Have the person you depend on to check your home to also move your car throughout the time you're away.

The sheriff said another key clue is your garbage container and that you should arrange for someone to move your can to the street for its regular pickup.

She said it is also important that a family friend who is watching your home should also have an itinerary and emergency number where you can be reached.

Just remember, good neighbors will call law enforcement if they see strangers in your yard.

Finally, if you normally hide an emergency key outdoors, move the key elsewhere.

Ask your neighbor to leave it under their doormat or in their yard.

Just remember that your key under your doormat is an easy entrance for potential burglaries.

The Greenville Police Department also offers a House Watch program for city residents.

Chief Lonzo Ingram said his force is happy to help out.

"If they come by and request us to watch their house, we'll be glad to," he said.

"They just need to let us know the dates the house will be vacant and the date they will return."

On the inside:

While you need to do things to secure your home's exterior, there are things you should do inside that are just as important. According to Terry Wilhite, spokesman for Pioneer Electric Cooperative, proper precaution is important when leaving for vacation.

"Disconnect the television before taking off for an extended time," he said.

"Unless it is unplugged, the TV with an "instant on" feature continues to use energy."

He also suggests that electric water heaters be turned off at the breaker.

One of the biggest draws on electricity in your home is your central air conditioner.

If everyone is away on vacation, there is no reason to leave it on a normal setting.

"Turn your central air conditioner off for no usage or raise the thermostat to 80 degrees or higher to avoid extreme heat in the house for plants and such," Wilhite said.

To avoid mail from piling up, Wilhite also suggests arranging bill payments through automatic bank drafts.

"Automatic bank drafts may be the best discovery you ever make," he said. "They're easy to set up and as long as your checking account can handle it, your bank will pay your bills through bank draft while you're away. You may fall in love with it all year long."

Wilhite said not to forget your computer while you are away.

"Unplug your phone line to your computer, as well as the AC," he said.

"Lightning storms like to use both the AC and phone line as paths to fry your computer."

Other suggestions for inside your home include:

N Turn off the water supply to the washing machine. The hose to the washing machine could burst or leak while you're away.

N Unplug unused appliances, including toasters, microwave ovens and televisions. A fire could start from a cord and plug appliance, even when they're not in use.

N Secure or unplug the garage door opener, but only if it's not going to be used by the person watching your home. Stray radio signals could cause your door to open.

N Make sure all windows and doors are locked and secured.

N Do not leave the porch light on. This is a sure sign that nobody's there

N Have someone open and close the shades to make the home look lived in.

N Turn off the answering machine or call and clear out your calls each day. It would be better to set your phone to forward calls to a friend or relative.

N Do not leave pets unattended.

N Arrange to have pets cared for.

Ingram also suggested that some timers be placed in the home to activate lighting and then to turn it back off.

"This will give the appearance that someone is home," he said.

On the road

Paul McKinley of McKinley Tire Sales & Service at 470 Greenville Bypass said servicing your automobile before a trip is the important thing you will do from a safety standpoint.

"One of the things I would do if I were getting ready to go on a trip, assuming the car is low mileage with 12,000 to 15,000 on it, is bring it in and have my tires checked for air pressure," he said. "Also I would have the technician observe the tires to be sure they are wearing correctly."

McKinley has a caveat for those who drive brand new cars.

"One of the things people assume is just because a car is new, that it is fine until there is a problem," he said. "Then they realize that even brand new cars require maintenance. A big portion of our tire business comes off of cars that have less than 20,000 miles on them."

McKinley said about 50 to 60 percent of all cars that go to him for care are out of alignment.

"The most critical thing on tires is air pressure and that is something people take for granted," he said. "They assume the air pressure stays the same all the time and that is not the case. When the weather is hot it is higher. When the weather is cold it is lower. We recommend that people check that every 30 days."

"They ruin the tires on them before the customers realize they have a problem," he said. "It's always good to bring the cars in and have the tires checked and have the fluids topped off and checked."

He said it is also important to have all belts and hoses checked.

McKinley's company offers free safety inspections for the public.

"What we do on the free inspection is check wiper blades, belts, hoses and check the tires for wear and nails," he said. "We look at the exhaust to make sure it is okay. There are a lot of little simple things that need to be looked over."

On the way

Another thing to have handy while on the road is an emergency kit.

It should include: a quart of motor oil, a gallon of water, jumper cables, flares, some old clothes, gloves, a flashlight and spare batteries, wheel chocks, duct tape, a first-aid kit, and an assortment of wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers. The most useful tool of all is a cell phone.

Take these precautions and leave home with nothing to worry about.