Protect Your Packages (And Your Home) During the Holidays

There’s almost nothing more convenient than online ordering – and this year will be a holiday season like no other.

With smaller gatherings and social circles, you’ll likely be shipping more packages to friends and family you’d normally see in person over the holidays.

Unfortunately, more packages being delivered could increase the risk of package theft. A study by C+R Research estimates that 36% of survey respondents have had a package swiped from their doorstep before they could retrieve it, and over 50% knew someone who’d had a package stolen.

Since online shopping is only predicted to increase, here are a few steps to protect your deliveries from what are commonly called porch pirates.


  • Install a smart device. Various smart gadgets on the market can help keep packages secure. A video doorbell allows you to see and speak to the delivery person at your door through your mobile device. You can ask them to leave the package in an inconspicuous spot or activate your smart lock and have them leave it inside your door.
  • Contact your carrier. Do a little detective work, and you may uncover some options through the delivery service. Many carriers now offer flexible options that let you schedule or reroute deliveries. For example, you could have them dropped off and held at a retailer near you, or deposited in a secure locker, such as gopost from the USPS. Before you order, check the alternative offerings from the carrier.
  • Check your credit card policies. Some credit card companies offer protection against package theft to help you recover your losses. For specifics, get in touch with your credit card company to find out if this coverage is available and for how much.
  • Track your packages. Reputable retailers often offer free package tracking so you can see when your purchase ships and where it stops along its journey to your front door. Being able to see when it might arrive can help you protect that package from theft.


Once you have your packages inside your home, you’ll want to protect them, and your own belongings, from holiday thieves. Here are some tips to help protect your home during the holidays.

  • Keep doors locked. This almost goes without saying, but make sure you keep your doors and windows locked. According to 2019 data from the FBI, 37% of burglaries are unlawful entries, suggesting that doors and windows were not secured.
  • Shore up your garage’s weaknesses. This part of the house has some weak points that make it pretty easy for an intruder to work their way in. If you park your car in the driveway, don’t keep the garage opener in your car; keep it in the house. Never store gifts in the garage, especially if your garage has windows and non-deadbolt locks on exterior doors. Finally, always use the deadbolt to secure the door from the garage into the house.
  • Create that at-home look. With those short days and long nights, it’s a good idea to put your lights on a timer. You can also have a neighbor or family member park in your driveway intermittently. It’s a great way to fool a burglar into thinking of someone’s home.
  • Discard wisely. What’s a sure sign to a burglar that your home is now filled with expensive gadgets? Empty boxes stacked next to your recycling bin. Instead, load them up in your car and find a place where you can drop these off.
  • Conceal your gifts. Some people like to have gifts out ahead of the actual holiday. If these are visible from the outside, it can be tempting to a burglar. Keep your shades or drapes drawn. Or, if you like showing off your holiday decorations to your neighbors, consider storing the wrapped gifts in a closet or some other out-of-sight place until the big day.
  • Be social media savvy. Do take lots of pictures of your holiday vacation or the delighted faces of your loved ones opening gifts, but be mindful of what you share online and when you share them. (Tip: You may want to wait until after you’re safely home to post on social media.)

11 Things to Do Before Leaving Home for the Holidays

If you plan to travel over the holiday season, you’re in good company.

Whether you’re headed near or far, don’t forget to look after your empty home. No one wants to dampen the holidays by returning to a burst pipe or a burglary.

Fortunately, taking a few simple steps can help you rest easy… and the right homeowners’ insurance can give you peace of mind, too. Follow these tips to keep your home safe and cozy – even while you’re away.


Burglars are less likely to target your place if they think someone’s home. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Find a friend. Ask a trusted neighbor, family member, or friend if they’re willing to keep an eye on your place. (Pro tip: Have a backup on hand, just in case.) Even if they’re not house-sitting around the clock, it helps to have someone who can pop by on occasion and alert you right away if anything looks “off.” Ask them to keep an eye on the exterior, both front, and back. Give them a key so they can do a walk-through at least once. If they discover a broken or opened door or window, they should not enter the home and instead call law enforcement immediately.
  • Take care of mail and deliveries. If someone can collect it, that’s also an easy way to keep tabs on your place. Otherwise, simply request that the postal service hold your mail. This is the holiday season, of course, so leave instructions for all packages too.
  • Plan for trash pickup: Ask someone to move your bins. If your trash and recycling are sitting on the curb for longer than usual, that’s a dead giveaway that no one’s home.
  • Don’t forget snow removal. Nothing screams “No one’s home!” like a driveway heaping with untouched snow. Hire someone to come by to shovel or plow your driveway and walkways. Ask a neighbor to pull up and turn around in your driveway from time to time, just to leave fresh tracks.
  • Program your lights: You don’t need anything fancy – even a $20 smart plug can let you control your lights from anywhere with just an app. Old-school mechanical timers work just as well, too. Turn the TV on once in a while for good measure. The only rule? Don’t keep your house dark for days on end – that’s a surefire way to attract a burglar’s attention.”
  • Go high-tech: Today’s home automation systems and connected home apps make it easy to keep things running smoothly when you’re away. If you’re the tech-savvy type, you’ve got options. Consider a video doorbell; motorized window treatments; or smart bulbs to make it look like you never left. (Other smart home tech like security cameras, sensors or smart locks can give you peace of mind, too.)
  • Be mindful of what you post: Everyone loves adding a great selfie to their story, but consider waiting until you get home. Excessive posting is a reminder to those who follow you on social media that you’re away and could leave your home vulnerable to theft.


Your home is probably your biggest investment. If your travel plans are scheduled for longer than a few days, here’s a quick list of things to check for safety before you leave.

  • Locks and alarms: This one’s obvious, but make sure your doors are locked and your alarm system is set (if you have one). Secure any other entrances, too, such as your garage, windows, or pet doors.
  • Thermostat: If you have a pet-free house, you can go ahead and lower the temperature to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s warm enough to keep things from freezing but cool enough to give your furnace and energy usage a break.
  • Water: Plunging temps can cause pipes to freeze and burst, causing thousands of dollars of damage to your home. Even a simple leak could slowly empty water and damaged appliances, furniture, and much more. Turn off the water main in your home before you leave. Then, drain the pipes by flushing the toilets and turning on the faucets. Finally, turn your water heater down to “vacation mode” so you aren’t spending money on keeping water warm when you’re not around.
  • Electronics: Appliances can suck energy when they’re plugged in and not in use. Unplug everything that will not be in use while you’re away, including your washer and dryer, television, computer, toaster and coffee maker.
    Whether you’re traveling near or far, a little care and preparation ahead of time can help minimize the risk of something going awry. That way, you’re free to be present and make the holidays magical and bright with the ones you love.

What Happens If My Neighbor’s Tree Falls in My Yard?

Trees can be one of the best features about a neighborhood or property, but it can also leave homeowners in a sticky situation if they cause damage after a storm.  For the most part homeowners are responsible for what falls into their own yard.  This means that if a neighbor’s tree falls into your yard, your homeowners insurance could help cover the cost of removing the tree and remedying the damage it caused on your property, after your deductible.

The same is true in reverse: If a tree on your property falls in your neighbor’s yard, your neighbor should contact his or her insurance company to determine what type of coverage is available for damage or cleanup in their yard.

Although majority of these circumstances can be worked out between the neighbors, sometimes extensive damage may need to file a homeowners insurance claim. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover the cost of tree cleanup, depending on your policy and the company you work with.

If there’s ever an issue between neighbors, you can rely on Emerling Floss Murphy & Associates to help straighten everything out.


If a tree falls on your house, the first thing to do, if it’s safe, is to try to prevent further damage to your home and property. Make sure to take some photos to document what happened. Then call your insurance agent, who can explain your options and help you understand if and how to file a claim. When you file a claim, a claims adjuster will come by to evaluate the damage and explain how your homeowners coverage comes into play. It’s recommended that you call your claims adjuster before you contract to have the tree removed.

Sometimes trees fall on cars. If it’s not safe or possible to remove the tree from the car yourself, you should call a professional to remove it. Depending on the damage and terms of your insurance coverage, the optional comprehensive coverage you may have under your auto policy could provide coverage for the loss.



Preventive measures matter when it comes to trees. Start by looking for signs of distress such as dead limbs, cracks in the trunk or major limbs, leaning to one side and branches that are close to a house or power line. Mushroom growth on the roots or bark can also signal trouble.

Homeowners should be concerned about the health of their trees. It’s possible for you to be held responsible for resulting damage to your neighbor’s house or property, if your tree falls due (in whole or part) to your own neglect.

If you have any further questions or concerns, give us a call!  We are happy to help!