All posts by Home Security Blogger

Summer Sniffles? Yes, They Happen. And Summer Colds Aren’t Like Winter Ones, so Beware

The month of August brought with it a nasty surprise: a nasty cold. I’m on day six of this dastardly bug and miserable as I’m barely functioning and unable to enjoy the lovely weather. But more than that, I’m pissed! “Who gets a cold in the summer?” I wanted to know. Well it turns out I do…and millions of others too. And summer colds aren’t like winter ones, which is important to know, although they do require the same prevention.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 10 to 15 million people in the U.S. get sick with summer colds each year between June and October. To keep yourself out of that group, read on…

So, what’s the difference?
According to Medical News Today, summer colds differ from winter colds because they tend to be cause by enteroviruses. Winter colds tend to be caused by rhinoviruses. That’s the biggest difference between the two.

For the most part, a summer cold is like a winter cold with a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, coughing, headaches, sinus pressure, sore throat, low energy and muscle aches. However, there is one major difference that I was relieved to learn about: Summer cold symptoms can include nausea and vomiting. I relieved because that part of this sickness surprised me. My stomach isn’t usually an issue when I have a cold! Enteroviruses can also cause fevers.

Other than that, the main difference is the inconvenience, if you want my opinion: For those who get stricken with summer colds, we are either prevented from having our summer fun or we’re having to muscle through and get summer tasks done regardless—like last night when I helped offload 70 bales of hay.

Prevention and treatment are the same
In addition to the similarities between the two kinds of colds, the prevention is the same: frequent hand washing. But we’re not thinking about that in the middle of summer! In the middle of winter, we’re mindful of cold and flu season and we pay attention. In the summer, not so much—if at all. (And I know how I got my cold: Using my handkerchief to wipe my goddaughter’s nose during church.)

The treatment is the same too: getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, using decongestants and taking acetaminophen as needed. (Try getting plenty of rest in August when you have 22 acres, horses, chickens, pigs and a huge garden that needs daily care, argh!)

Are summer colds worse?
Rumor has it that summer colds last longer than winter ones, but experts say there’s no proof of that. I disagree, because a winter cold doesn’t prevent us from taking advantage of summer weather. A summer cold does. Therefore, a summer cold does last longer because the negative consequences are worse. So there.

Or maybe that’s just my pity party talking.

In any case, don’t be like me: Don’t assume that summer means you can let your guard down. Be vigilant against cold germs no matter the season—and stay healthy all year long.

Why a Smart Home Is a Smart Move in this Busy Modern Age

I’ve got news for you: Life isn’t going to get any easier. You’d think with all the technology we have today that our lives would be slowing down, not speeding up. But the opposite seems to be true, as if the more tech we have, the more is demanded of us. From our jobs to our families to what I call the “admin” of daily life, it’s just a lot to keep up with. So wherever we can cut some corners and streamline our lives, we probably should!

A smart home can be a smart move for someone with a too-busy life who wants to get back a little time. Here are just a few ways a smart home can help.

Cut costs and go green
With a home security system that’s also a home automation system, a homeowner can reduce utility bills and sometimes home insurance rates. There’s smart home technology that “knows” the most efficient time to operate your home appliances for lower energy costs, and your smart home can turn lights on or off at the right times as well as control the temperature in your house based on when you’re home or on your way home. All of that lowers your energy bills and helps you go green as a consumer. As for the home insurance rates, protecting your home with home security lowers the insurance company’s risks, and many are willing to reward you for that.

Improve efficiencies
Do you sometimes feel like you’re juggling too many balls in the air—and you don’t even really know how to juggle? Welcome to adulting. And with all that’s asked of us in this modern age, who wouldn’t like to be more efficient! A smart home can help. You can take better care of your pets when you’re gone by automating the thermostat and using remote video to keep an eye on them. You can keep tabs on the kids when they get home first. You can make sure doors and windows are locked from afar. And you can reduce some of your task saturation when you hand over some of those tasks to your smart home.

Beef up security and safety
A smart home is also a smart move when you use it to protect your family and your property. The right home automation system will give you security as well as remote access so you can lock or unlock, arm or disarm from anywhere. Plus you’re able to monitor video and even see who’s at the front door—while you’re sitting at your desk at work or behind the wheel of car during your commute. Then there’s the lighting you can automate to turn on or off to make it look like someone’s home. A smart home can also mean smart lighting so sidewalks and entryways are lit up when you’re getting home, reducing the chances of a trip in the dark.

As technology gets smarter, our homes should as well. And then maybe that can free up some brain space for us humans, so we can take a breath and learn how to juggle everything modern life is throwing at us.

Ways to Get More Downtime in Your Summertime

What is it about summer that makes us want to slow down and take it kind of easy? Is it because the kids are out of school? The days are longer? I don’t know, but I do know that most of us seem to want less time spent on work and chores and more time spent on relaxing and s’mores.

The challenge lies in figuring out how to make this happen. After all, we still have our jobs to do, households to clean, bills to pay, errands to run, pets to care for, etc. How do we carve out more downtime in the summertime when life doesn’t slow down? By following the advice below…

Set boundaries
Are there activities you can take a break from during the summer to allow for some downtime? Do it. Do you typically continue to work once you’re home in the evenings and on weekends? Stop. Are there social obligations you could postpone until the fall? Put them off. Cut back on other things so you can have more time in your summertime.

Schedule it
Summer flies by. And although it sounds counterintuitive to say you should schedule it when we’re talking about relaxing, putting some summer fun on your calendar before the season even starts will make sure it happens. Maybe there’s a hike or daytrip you’ve been longing to do, or an outdoor event you’ve yet to make it to. The point is not to fill up your schedule, because we’re going for downtime here. The point is to plan a few fun things so you’re sure to also have that downtime, even if the activity is going to the lake for the day. Put the fun things on your calendar ahead of time and you’ll enjoy those and your downtime both.

Simplify it
Sometimes we just need to chill. Our society practically worships being busy, and that’s bad for our stress level, health and relationships. Don’t look at summer as one more season to overload with trips and photo opps in faraway places. Instead, look for ways to just chill. Set up a firepit and a string of lights and just sit by the fire all evening long. Get an outdoor game like croquet, cornhole or horseshoes. Or just set up a chair and read a book. It can be as simple as that.

Keep the kitchen stocked
You’re not going to avoid the grocery shopping during the summer, but you can use those trips to the store to set you up for more downtime. Buy quick-fix meals or the ingredients for easy burgers or hot dogs. Stock up on sodas, juices or lemonade. Fill the freezer with popsicles and ice cream treats. What says summer snacks to your family? Stock up on those. That way you can set out to spend the day chillin’ without having to drive to the store to make it happen.

Make the most of your home automation system
Take advantage of your home automation system and stop worrying about home security issues like open windows or dark homes. This won’t give you more downtime, but it will give you more peace of mind.

Everyone needs a chance to slow down and relax and rejuvenate, especially in this busy age we’re living in. Make the most of your summertime downtime to get recharged by following these tips.

Our Summer Safety Roundup: Tips for SAFE Fun in the Sun, on the Road, or in the Water

As I write this, the longest day of the year is fast approaching. And longer days mean summertime activities…which means taking into account safety considerations we don’t really think about during the rest of the year.

It turns out we’ve covered dozens of summer safety topics over the years in the blog. To help you find the summer safety tips most relevant to your planned (or unplanned) activities, we provide a roundup of our most popular summer safety tips below:

On the road again
For many families, summer time means travel time, by plane, train, car, boat or on foot. Here are some summer safety tips to keep you and yours safe and sane while traveling:

Family matters
Summer can also mean guests arriving or kids staying home or a general change in the daily routine. Below are some summer safety tips to make sure everyone makes it to the end of summer alive and well!

Making waves…
And summertime means splashing around, in the pool, lake or river. Water is wonderful but be wary because thousands of people drown each year—an average of 10 per day. Check out these safety tips before anyone slips into a swimsuit or boat:

Summer security…
Although you might be planning a summer vacation or getaway, that doesn’t mean the burglars are taking time off. In fact, burglars are more active in the summer. Before you go on that getaway, follow the guidelines in these posts:

The great outdoors…
Finally, what is summer without time outside, either keeping up with yardwork or exploring the great outdoors in nature?

And if you’re not sure your summer will offer as much downtime as you’d like, learn 4 ways a home automation system can help you enjoy summer more!

How to Keep Your Kids, Pets and Property Safe (and Yourself Sane) this Independence Day

Independence Day, better known as the 4thof July, will soon be here. Somehow this day celebrating our nation’s independence has become synonymous with fireworks, the louder and brighter the better. But just as it’s dangerous to become complacent about our republic, so too is it dangerous to get complacent about the dangers of pyrotechnics, a.k.a. fireworks.

To keep you and your family whole on this upcoming boisterous holiday, please consider the advice below:

Skip the fireworks stand
The best way to stay safe on the 4thof July? Leave the shows to the pros. There are simply too many things that can go wrong when setting off fireworks, even the simple ones. (See below about sparklers.) And we’re not talking about minor injuries here. According to the National Safety Council, fireworks in 2017 resulted in:

  • 8 deaths
  • 12,000 injuries
  • 18,500 fires

If those numbers don’t dissuade you and you absolutely must have fireworks rather than go to a show, see these safety tips offered by KidsHealth.org.

Choose an alternative to sparklers
I’m a middle-aged person and I still love sparklers. But they are far more dangerous than most people realize because they can get as hot as 1,800 degrees! That seemingly harmless staple of Independence Day celebrations causes 25% of the fireworks injuries that result in emergency room visits. For children under 5 years old, sparklers were the reason for almost 50% of the injuries.

Sparklers might be hard to avoid, since they are ubiquitous on the 4th, included in the combos so common at the fireworks stands. Be ready with alternatives such as glow sticks or a small American flag to wave. And for the really young who can be stubborn and unreasonable (life with toddlers!), consider a stash of popsicles to offer as alternatives if nothing else will appease.

Watch out for your pets–PLEASE
The best thing you can do for your pets on the 4th? Leave them at home, inside the home. If you’re entertaining at home or risking your own fireworks, keep your pets locked in the house. If you’re heading out to watch fireworks elsewhere, same. Your dog or cat will feel safer if inside, and you’re less likely to have a runaway.

Even if you assume your pets will be fine, keep them inside. The fireworks are far more scary for pets than we humans realize, as evidenced by the record numbers of animals that are turned in to animal shelters on July 5theach year.

At our house, our oldest pet is a cat who showed up at an acquaintance’s on July 5th. She obviously had been panicked by the noise and hung out in his unwelcome yard for a month until I scooped her up and brought her home, all skin and bones by then. (That was 15 years ago, and she has been the queen of our household ever since as 6 pounds of feline terror who lords it over both the dogs and the humans. Maybe it was her tenacity that kept her alive for that month as a stray!)

Realize there’s no such thing as a “safe” firework
Thinking back to my own childhood of decades ago and my fondness for the black snakes of charcoal, I thought I might find a list of “safe” fireworks as I wrote this post. But alas, there doesn’t seem to be any such thing. I guess because you can’t have a firework without fire, even a match or a lighter, everything is risky. So follow the advice above and keep you, your kids, your pets and your property safe and sane this Independence Day—and maybe focus on the reason for the day instead.

Keeping an Eye on Things: How to Get the Most Out of Your Home Security Cameras

Home security technology has come a long way, especially now that video cameras are easily integrated into home security systems. If you’re adding cameras to your home security, below are 10 tips to help you make the most of them.

Think through where you need the cameras
Rather than putting up cameras helter skelter, be careful in your placement. Better placement improves your coverage but also reduces the number of cameras you’ll need. This applies to inside and outside your home. Think through what you want to be able to see. Do you need a camera inside to keep an eye on pets, kids who get home before you do, or an elderly parent prove to falling? Outside, do you have an attractive nuisance like a pool to monitor? Also think about people approaching your home. You don’t want a view of someone only once they are at the front door, but while they are approaching it too.

Use the right cameras for different locations
Interior cameras differ from those meant for exterior use. For one thing, exterior home security cameras are built to be weather-resistant. Put the right camera in the right place.

Install home security cameras for maximum visibility
To maximize the area your cameras can see, install them approximately seven feet high and pointed at a slight downward angle. This also helps with motion detection because the camera has the wider view and will be triggered sooner.

Install in high-traffic areas
Put cameras where people are most likely to go, but also think about where burglars are most likely to enter and install cameras to monitor those locations. Research shows burglars are a lot less subtle than you might expect:

  • 34% of the time they enter through the front door
  • 23% of the time through a ground-floor window
  • 22% of the time through the back door

Use a video doorbell
You’re probably planning to place a camera near the front door because it’s the most common place of entry—even for burglars, as we noted above. Consider making it a video doorbell. That way you can know if UPS delivered your package, or see who is at your front door when the doorbell rings and you’re at work.

Install cameras out of reach
You want your cameras to be located higher up so you get a better view, but the higher the better so they are out of reach of burglars too. After all, your camera won’t do much good if a burglar can simply reach up and pull it down or cover it up!

Keep cameras out of the elements
Your exterior video camera will be built to resist the weather, but that doesn’t mean you should install it where all the weather will hit. You could very well be obstructing your own view if pouring down rain obscures the camera lens.

Be mindful of the light
Don’t install any cameras to point at light like toward a bright porch light or a window because you’ll get a poor quality image if you do. Keep shadows and shade in mind too when deciding where to install your home security cameras.

Choose wireless
WiFi and wireless video cameras are easy to install and to move around if you realize you need a better location.

Connect to your smartphone
Connectivity is one of the biggest benefits of today’s wireless home security cameras because you can see what’s happening from your smartphone. A security camera can send you alerts on your smartphone when motion is detected or a door is opened. This makes it easy to know when the kids get home from school too.

Also consider installing cameras at your garage or any outbuildings if they are outside the range of the cameras you’ve installed for your home security. Because the cameras are there to help you keep an eye on things, and the more you can see, the better!

Making the Most of Memorial Day? Ready Your Car Before Your Road Trip with These Tips

Although Memorial Day was originally intended to honor fallen soldiers, it has become the unofficial kickoff to summer in the U.S. and tens of millions of Americans hit the road to get away.

If you’ll be one of those millions, make sure your car is ready for the road (and not for a wreck) with this quick checklist of seven tips:

One: Check the traffic report
Knowing millions of other Americans are hitting the road for the three-day weekend, plan accordingly. The Thursday before the weekend is typically congested because people leave work early to extend their time off to four days. And the Friday before brings a mix of travelers and those workers trying to get home to start their time off. If you’re traveling by car, just know you’re not alone and plan accordingly so you don’t spend precious hours stuck in traffic.

Two: Get an oil change
Get an oil change and tell them you’re going on a road trip and want them to check all of the fluids, etc., that should be checked prior to a trip. Although they might suggest maintenance you don’t think you really need yet, carefully consider suggestions they make in case something does require immediate attention before a long drive.

Three: Check your tires
Check all tire pressure, including your spare and the tires on your trailers or anything else you are hauling. Whether you’re pulling a camp trailer or boats or horses, you don’t want a flat tire with your vehicle or your trailer, especially on such a busy travel weekend.

Four: Check all the lights all over
Do a thorough light check, including brake lights, blinkers, reverse lights, and headlights along with the lights inside the vehicle and all your trailer lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs and buy spares to take with you. Also clean your headlights for the best brightness.

Five: Clean your windshield
Clean your windshield, replace old wipers and check the washer fluid. As winter ends, windshields need a good scrubbing and wiper blades need replacing, because you want excellent visibility when you’re driving somewhere new.

Six: Fill the tank and keep an eye on it
It’s easy to say you’ll get gas on the way, but you don’t always know where to find a gas station in unfamiliar territory. So fill up before you go, and try not to let the gas tank get more than half empty during the trip. Trust me on this one. I speak from experience.

Seven: Pack provisions
Lastly, pack an emergency safety kit. Try to include all of the items listed here, but at the bare minimum, make sure your car is stocked with extra food and water, a change of clothes, a stash of cash, phone numbers on paper, and a map.

Enjoy your time away if you’re getting away—but do take a few minutes to remember the men and women who are the reason for the weekend. Because they gave everything.

Photo by Jorge Saavedra on Unsplash

Getting Fit This Spring? 5 Tips to Keep You Safe While Running

The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and it’s time to get out there and get in shape for summer! If you’re one of the millions of Americans who run, either competitively or for fitness, make sure you’re staying safe while getting fit with these five tips:

1. Run with a buddy
If you can avoid it, try not to run alone, because being alone makes you an easy target. If you don’t have a neighbor or friend to run with, see if you can join a local running group and run with them.

2. Run out in the open
If you are running alone, avoid trail running or any other kind of running that’s not in the open. Running on a busy road sucks, but at least you have a lot of people around who provide a deterrent to anyone with bad intentions! Also, running in a neighborhood or business district means you have homes or businesses to turn to should something bad happen.

3. Run in the daylight
Many people have to run after dark because of their work schedules, but avoid that if you can. The more daylight, the more safety! If you do run after dark, try to partner with a running buddy to prevent being attacked. Also wear reflective clothing and some kind of light or lamp to help cars see you.

4. Run with your ears wide open
Music makes running better! But when your ears are plugged up with your playlist, you can’t hear cars—or a potential attacker. Now, if you’re running with a buddy, you’ll probably be talking and you have the safety of numbers. But if you’re running alone, keep at least one ear bud-free so you can hear what’s going on around you.

5. Run with your eyes wide open
Also pay attention with your eyes. Don’t assume the passing cars see you. Try to make eye contact with drivers if you’re not sure, and still assume the worst. Only cross the street in designated areas. Be careful driving past parked cars when a door might suddenly swing open. Watch the sidewalk for cracks and the height of the curbs to prevent falls. Yes, you want to go into a zone, but you still must stay aware of what’s going on around you and under your feet.

You want to be fit, but you also want to be safe. These five tips should help. Happy running!

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

It’s Mow Time! 10 Tips for Safer Mowing when Grass Is Growing

Is your grass growing? Our grass is growing! I mean, really growing. As in, I swear if I stood still long enough, I’d see it grow!

Welcome to spring, when the earth comes out of its dormant state and everything is green again! At this time of year, I sometimes think mowing should be a daily activity! And since I’m not the only one getting on the riding mower to keep the growing grass in check, it’s a good time to review some mowing safety tips.

To keep you and yours safe during the heavy-duty mowing season, follow these 10 tips:

  • Do a walk through. Yes, you’re anxious to get started, but it’s better to find the dog’s ball, the kids’ jump rope, the hose, the branches, the rocks, the you-name-it before you start mowing. That way, you’re less likely to run over something and either damage the mower or send something flying or both.
  • Wear safe footwear. Do not mow in flip flops or sandals! Even sneakers are risky. Protect your toes with leather shoes or work boots.
  • Wear long pants. Sure, it’s tempting to wear shorts when the sun is shining, but your lawn mower can make a missile out of a stray rock or stick and send that missile hurtling at your bare skin. And honestly, it’s easier to put green-stained jeans into the washer than it is to scrub the green stain off of your skin!
  • Wear long sleeves. See above…
  • Wear protective eyewear. Just as your skin is vulnerable to “attack” from flying objects, so too are your eyes. Even a tiny speck can do damage. Keep your eyes covered.
  • Wear earplugs. No, we’re not suggesting a mower-launched projectile will get into your ears, but the noise can be damaging.
  • Keep the little ones inside while mowing. Kids will be kids. And with the noise of the mower, you won’t hear them coming. So play it safe and keep the kids inside playing while you’re outside mowing.
  • Gas up wisely. Make sure the gas tank is full before you start to decrease the chance that you’ll run dry while mowing. If you do run out of gas, let the mower cool down before you refuel.
  • Stay on the level. I know, I know! That little bit of incline doesn’t seem that steep, right? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? The riding mower could tip, that’s what! So don’t go there. Use the push mower or weed whacker for any inclines.
  • Just be careful and expect the unexpected. I once bought a used riding mower. It caught on fire while mowing. It turned out a mouse had built a nest in it while it was sitting idle in the previous owner’s garage. You just never know…

But there’s more to lawn care than just mowing, so find other lawn care safety tipshere. And then take some time to enjoy the weather while admiring you’re lovely lawn!

Think You Can’t Afford Home Security? 3 Ways Home Security Pays for Itself

According to Statista, less than one-third of Americans have a home security system. Is that because they think they can’t afford it, or that it’s a luxury item or only needed by the very rich? If so, that thinking is misguided. It’s all a matter of perspective. Once you understand the true value of protection and peace of mind, it doesn’t seem expensive at all. And if a family is dishing out a couple hundred dollars a month for cell phones, the cost of a home security system pales in comparison.

Besides, a home security can pay for itself. Here’s how:

1) It can minimize fire or water damage
Your home security system can include monitoring for fire, smoke, carbon monoxide and even flooding. In situations where minutes count, like a fire, your home security system can get help to your house faster to minimize damage to your home, property and possessions.

2) It can keep a burglar at bay
A home security system can’t guarantee your home won’t be burgled, but it can decrease the chances. A burglar strikes every 13 seconds in the U.S. and homes with an obvious home security system are less likely to be targeted. How does that pay for itself? By preventing the costs of a theft. Studies say thefts costs about $2,000 to replace stolen items, but your time has value too. A home burglary will mean a lot of time on the phone and dealing with paperwork, plus the psychological damage done to you and your kids sense of safety. And that’s expensive!

3) It can lower your homeowner’s insurance premium
This is not a guaranteed cost savings, but worth looking into because many insurance companies will discount your homeowner’s insurance if you have a home security system.

It’s not all that much money
Maybe none of these cost-saving arguments really matters, however, if you consider how little a home security system costs compared to other common household expenses. A home security system costs an average of $35 per month depending on your vendor and features. That’s a little over a dollar per day. In comparison, most people spend far more than that on gas for the car, restaurant meals, and even fancy coffees: 10 coffees at $3.50 a pop adds up to $35. What’s worth more, 10 lattes or a safe and secure home?

When you look at it that way, is a home security system really that expensive?