To prepare for a break or vacation, when few or no people will be around, several steps should be taken to reduce costs, prevent serious damage and improve security and safety. Breaks are also good times to conduct maintenance and improvement projects. Consider the following checklist:

Spring Break House Manager – If the chapter house manager will be away during the break someone else should be appointed to take over his duties in the interim.
Fire Department, Police and Alarm Company Notification – Be sure to notify the fire department, the police and your alarm company whether your house will be open or closed, and make sure they know the person to contact in the event of an emergency. If the police and alarm company know your property will be closed, they will watch it more closely.
Notify Neighbors – Let the neighbors know whether or not your house will be vacant. If a small number of tenants will occupy the house, it would be good for them to introduce themselves to the neighbors.
Exterminating – When the house is vacant, it’s the best time for an extermination company to do a major insect and rodent extermination project.
Fire Extinguishers, Safety and Alarm Systems – The fire extinguishers and other smoke and fire safety systems should be checked and serviced routinely. It is an especially good time to test all of the safety systems when the building is empty. If the house has a centralized alarm system, alert the alarm company of the vacancy dates.
Secure Expensive Items – If a specific storage closet is unavailable, one room should be designated for locking up all target items for burglars, such as stereos, TVs, VCRs, speakers, paintings, etc.
Protection Against Vandalism – Sometimes people break into a building simply for the sake of destruction. Composites, trophies, and chapter knick-knacks are often the target of such vandalism, and some of these items are irreplaceable. Make sure these types of memorabilia are safely locked up and out of sight.
All Appliances Unplugged – It’s best to have the members who will be away to unplug everything in their individual rooms. The house manager should make sure that appliances in common areas are unplugged. This will reduce the risk of an electrical related accident occurring while you are away.
Limit Any Attractive Nuisance – An attractive nuisance is a dangerous condition which has the propensity to lure children. A swimming pool is a good example. Even a “No Trespassing” sign or a locked gate is not sufficient protection for the chapter if a child is injured on chapter property. Swimming pools should be drained or covered. Try to limit the lure of any potential attractive nuisance, especially if few or no members will be in residence during the vacation.
Service Equipment – All kitchen equipment should be routinely serviced, and during a break is an optimum time to do so. Call a qualified service person to inspect the refrigerator(s), cooler, dishwasher, etc.
Lock Up Supplies – All kitchen and table service hardware, utensils, cleaning supplies and stored food should be locked away.
Timers On Lights – Exterior lights help deter trespassers. Motion-sensor lights and automatic timers are convenient and will ensure that the lights are turned on and off when desired. If your house does not have either of these items, leave a light on near the front and back doors.

Although it is spring break, many chapters are still feeling the effects of winter. If your chapter is located in these areas please add the following suggestions to your checklist:

Prevent Pipe Freezing – When water freezes it expands. Therefore, if water in pipes is allowed to freeze, the pipes will burst. When the frozen water thaws, the result is massive leakage and can often result in severe damage to the house. Property loss from frozen water pipes is common. However, it can be avoided if the following steps are taken:

  • Disconnect all hoses from exterior water spigots.
  • Do not turn off the heat in the chapter house. Maintain the heat in the building at no less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Leave doors open in rooms that contain plumbing appliances so that warm air can circulate through these rooms.
  • If piping is run through enclosed cabinets, such as lavatories in bathrooms or enclosed kitchen sink cabinets, leave the cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate in these spaces.
  • If your heating system does not require water, you could turn the water supply to the building off at the main valve. However, make sure that the fire sprinkler system’s water supply is not affected.
  • Upon turning off the water supply as described above, drain the pipes by opening a faucet at the lowest end of the system (i.e., basement) and a faucet at the upper end of the system (uppermost floor).
  • If you have to, or elect to leave the water on, susceptible faucets and pipes located inside an exterior wall could be left on a slow drip.

Snow Maintenance – Whether you hire a local person or appoint a chapter member, someone should be in charge of keeping the sidewalks clear of snow and ice. City ordinances usually require walks to be cleared immediately following a snowfall. Extremely heavy snows may require certain types of roofs to be shoveled and tree limbs brushed off to prevent damage.

With proper preparation, you can enjoy your vacation with peace of mind knowing that the chapter house and members’ personal belongings will be safe and secure during your school’s spring break.