Tag Archives: help

Have Yourself a Greener Little Christmas…with Gifts that Last

The environment is top of mind for many this holiday season, after a year of horrendous natural disasters. That might mean we’re a little greener in our Christmas preparations this year. And even if wildfires and hurricanes aren’t pushing us to be greener, the rising awareness of plastic waste should be. As we switch to re-usable grocery bags and restaurants stop offering straws, we are paying more attention to that waste. And now is the time to do it, because the amount of trash we throw away in the U.S. increases by an estimated 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Yes, that makes the holiday season an excellent time to step back and figure out ways to make less waste of all kinds…starting with gifts. To help you get greener, we offer four ways to give gifts they’ll love—with less waste.

Give quality gifts
Choose a higher quality product if it will last longer, and most definitely avoid kitschy things that no one really wants anyway. (Hint: If it looks like it belongs a White Elephant party, it belongs at a White Elephant party.) Spend a little more and give a little less if you have to make up the difference in price. When you spend more for a higher quality product that lasts, you benefit in the long run by cutting down on waste.

Restrict your buying to local, independently owned shops
One way to cut back on waste is by driving less and spending more locally. It’s easy to go online and go on a splurge, buying things people might not need or want and generating lots of plastic shipping material that gets thrown away. Try shopping locally and you’ll make less waste while benefiting your local economy. (We are trying an experiment at our house this year: We are taking the money we saved for Christmas out of the bank as cash and only using that to do our Christmas shopping, forcing us to shop at brick-and-mortar stores and not online.)

Give gifts that keep on giving
It might not be glitzy but a gift like home security is a gift that keeps on giving without generating more waste. It’s something useful and much appreciated. It doesn’t take up any room or need storage, but it gives plenty of peace of mind. And it’s a gift that causes the recipient to think of you every time he or she uses it. Home security can be a priceless gift that keeps on giving. If not home security, maybe it’s a subscription to a publication, or a donation to a charity, or something else your loved one would appreciate.

Wrap naturally
Although we’ve been saving and re-using the same Christmas wrapping bows for years now (and admittedly, some are looking haggard and worn!), we are transitioning to all natural materials for gift wrapping. Check Pinterest for ideas, and you’ll see how gorgeous this kind of gift wrapping can be!

As our awareness of plastic waste increases, organizations and businesses are taking steps to decrease the amount of that waste. You can read updates on the fight against plastic waste at the National Geographic website. And you as an individual can take your own steps to reduce waste by going a little greener with gifts this season!

5 Christmas Tree Safety Tips–for Those of Us with Real Trees!

Lately the controversy has been heating up about which is the greener choice: a real Christmas tree or a fake one. If you really think about it, the real tree seems to be the greener choice, but surprisingly, over 80% of trees Americans will display in their homes this holiday season will be fake.

That still leaves about 20% of us committed to the real tree, and that means it’s worth reviewing Christmas tree safety tips. So our gift to you today: 5 Christmas tree safety tips.

1) Find a fresh tree—and keep it fresh
We live in an area surrounded by Christmas tree farms, and many trees are harvested well before Thanksgiving. Unless you’re cutting your tree yourself, check for freshness when you head out to find your perfect tree. Pull on the needles to make sure they aren’t falling off. Pick up the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it to see how many needles fall off. A few is okay. More than a few is not.

Buying your tree earlier in the season might help you to find a fresher one too. The longer the tree sits on the lot waiting to be sold, the more dried out it will get. We don’t put our tree up until right before Christmas but we buy it early, cut off the bottom 2 inches of the trunk, and keep it outside in a bucket of water until we are ready to put it up. We heat our house with a woodstove (because it was built in 1890 before central heating), and that can quickly dry out a tree, we learned the hard way. Keeping the tree in a bucket of water like just described has made a big difference in keeping the tree fresh.

2) Display your tree in a safe place
As I said, we heat our house with a woodstove, so our tree has to go in another room. All Christmas trees should be displayed far from woodstoves and fireplaces, as well as out of traffic areas where they might get bumped into by a toddler running through the house or a rambunctious big dog jumping about because he’s excited about a new toy. (I’m not going to say I’m speaking from experience here, but….)

3) Get the right size tree
As much as you might want something grandiose for displaying in your home, you don’t want your tree to be a hazard! So give your space serious consideration before you head to the tree lot. Our living room has ceilings that are 9-feet high, but our living room is small so the tree has to be skinny. It takes us a while to find a tall but very skinny tree! Even then, we end up trimming branches before we decorate, to make sure the tree is not sticking out and in the way at all.

4) Keep your Christmas tree watered—and watered, and watered
Once your tree is in the house, you’ll put water in the tree stand, of course, but you have to keep up with it. Your house is warm and that will dry out the tree quickly. Keeping the stand filled with water will help to slow down that process. And don’t let the tree stand go dry. If the bottom of your tree gets a chance to harden up again, you’ll have a hard time getting it to soak up any water. I make watering the tree part of my nightly routine, even when it’s soaking up less water after a few days.

5) Turn off the lights–safely
I don’t like turning off the lights on our Christmas tree. We only have it up for 3 weeks each year, so I want it lit up 24 hours a day during that time. That’s not safe, however. It’s not safe to have to climb under or around the tree to unplug the lights before bed either (something we are guilty of), so consider using a timer for your tree lights, or a surge protector with a switch, or something else that ensures you’ll turn the lights off when gone or in bed—without jeopardizing the tree.

I have to admit I was saddened by reading that only 20% of us are using real Christmas trees. There’s just something about the search for the right tree, the smell of the tree, the uniqueness of each tree every year…it would be hard to give that up. So for now, I count myself proudly among that 20%, using a real tree and following the tips above to keep it safe!

Review These Shopping Safety Tips Before You Whip Out Your Wallet This Weekend…

Thanksgiving is early this year. No, it really is. It falls on November 22nd, which is the earliest date it can fall on. So, it’s not your imagination. Thanksgiving did sneak up on you! And on us too, we admit, and because of that, we are all of a sudden realizing it’s time to talk about safe holiday shopping before the buying frenzy begins.

It’s going to be a big year for holiday shopping
And a frenzy it will be! Last year 174 million Americans parted with their money during the Thanksgiving weekend shopping, which includes Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can expect that number to be higher this year because the economy is booming and consumer confidence is high. As a result, eMarketer predicts 2018 holiday season will bring strong retail sales: offline sales are expected to increase 4.1%, while online spending will increase 16.2% to $123.39 billion.

Will you be one of the confident consumers coughing up cash this weekend? Before you whip out your wallet this Thursday, Friday or Monday, review these safety tips first, so your holiday won’t be more expensive than you’d planned.

While shopping online
More money will be spent online than in person this Thanksgiving weekend, so be ready to be safe for any shopping that involves your laptop or mobile phone:

  • When at a website, check the URL and look for https:// rather than just http://. You can also look for a lock or similar symbol, showing that the site is confirmed secure.
  • Change up your passwords on a regular basis.
  • Pay with a credit cardinstead of a debit card.
  • Have a plan for any packages that will get delivered to your house, so they’re not sitting on your front porch and easily stolen.

While shopping in person
Despite the allure of online shopping, many of us still like to go spend our money in person. If you’re going to be hitting the Black Friday sales, pay attention to these safety tips:

  • Don’t flash any cash and only pull out your wallet when you’re ready to pay.
  • Keep your purse close to your body or carry your wallet in a front pocket.
  • Only purchase what you can carry at one time.
  • Keep your phone charged.
  • Set up meeting times and places if you’re shopping with others.
  • Park under a light if you’ll be shopping until after dark.
  • If you put packages in your car and do more shopping, keep those packages out of sight by hiding them in the trunk.
  • Once you’re back home, don’t advertise expensive purchases. Don’t leave boxes on the front porch and break down large boxes as soon as possible to keep your buys to yourself.

Don’t spend what you don’t have
Although the buying and giving is fun, and these tips should help keep you and your property safer, we offer one caveat to all this: Avoid the debt. Consumer debt is set to reach $4 trillion by the end of 2018. You might think that’s unrelated to home security and safety, but when debt affects our physical health, marriages, and financial futures, it’s totally related. No matter how good the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal might be, if you have to borrow to buy it, you’re going to end up paying more for it anyway.

And on that note, have fun, buy smart, and stay safe this Thanksgiving weekend!

Emergency Preparedness: Oregon now Says 2 Weeks, not 3 Days

If you’ve been to this blog before, you know we talk about emergency preparedness—a lot. That’s because being prepared is part of being safe and secure. So when we heard that the state of Oregon has changed their recommendation for emergency preparedness from 72 hours of supplies to two weeks, we were intrigued, to say the least.

2 Weeks Ready
Oregon calls the campaign 2 Weeks Ready. This is a big change. We’re not talking 3 days to 5 or 7 or even 10, but 14. They’re recommending people in Oregon be ready to go it alone for two whole weeks. The situation in Oregon is based on the threats in that region, primarily earthquakes and tsunamis, but the reasoning is the lack of infrastructure in the aftermath of a disaster. As they say on their website:

“For many years, we’ve been talking about the importance of being prepared for 72 hours. This is a good start, and helpful in the event of short-term power outages or temporary evacuation. But a large earthquake and tsunami will leave much of the area’s transportation routes destroyed. Oregonians will have to count on each other in the community, in the workplace and at home in order to be safe until responders can reach you.”

Taking Oregon’s advice to heart
Although only certain parts of the U.S. are prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, it seems as if all of the U.S. is subject to some kind of natural disaster, from hurricanes to blizzards to wildfires to flooding…and more. Perhaps all of us should take this change from 3 days to 2 weeks seriously, because any of those disasters we just listed could also take down infrastructure. It doesn’t matter what causes the damage. Roads can be closed, power knocked out and communications taken down as a result.

Their website offers many resources and it’s definitely worth a look. They offer printable information sheets for business, communication, community, first aid, food, neighbors, pets and livestock, seniors, shelter, water and youth. They have a Facebook page and they are on Twitter.

How ready are you?
As we recently reported, only 40% of us are prepared for a disaster. That’s well less than half of the population. And for every person not prepared, the first responders and government agencies will be even more burdened with trying to help people. Do you want to rely on that? Or to take some responsibility for keeping your family safe and secure on your own? If you choose the latter, Oregon’s 2 Weeks Ready advice will help.

Is Your Home Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

As our phones get bigger and smarter and the technologies we use every day get more sophisticated, so too can our homes. With the Internet of Things now upon us, we’re poised to go from smart homes to smarterhomes in 2019 as home automation systems become commonplace and off-the-shelf products offer the convenience of smart home technology.

Here’s a quick look at just some of the tasks you can hand over to automation and smart home technology:

Home security: This one you’re probably already familiar with, but it gets better and better every year. Today’s home security systems offer video to let you see who’s at the front door, smart locks you can operate from anywhere, and even home automation features that let you program heating, air conditioning and lighting.

Lighting: Speaking of lighting, your home automation system can be set to turn lights on or off. You can now also buy lighting systems that let you control the brightness but also the color. You can even match the color of the light in a picture on your phone. This system can also turn lights on slowly to help you wake up in the morning.

Thermostats: Your home automation system can be used to control your thermostat or you can buy a “learning” thermostat that adapts to your lifestyle.

Household chores: Would you like to hand over some of your household chores to technology? You easily can. You’ll find devices that can handle some of the most mundane tasks for you, including window washing, vacuuming and floor mopping.

In the kitchen: We’ve heard all kinds of chatter about smart appliances already, like refrigerators that can track your groceries for you and ovens you can turn on remotely on your way home from work. But the one I’m ready for is the coffeemaker that knows when I wake up and brews my coffee just in time!

In the yard: You can lighten your load inside with smart home technology and automated devices, but you can also hand over some of the outside jobs too. Technology today offers automated lawn mowers and sprinklers, pool cleaners, and even a gutter cleaning device. (That’s the one at the top of my list! I do not like ladders!)

In the bedroom: Even your mattress can now help you sleep better, using biometric sensors and your smart phone.

And for the not yet smart? For those appliances that aren’t yet “smart,” you can get an outlet that lets you control whatever is plugged into it from your smart phone.

Experts say we are on the verge of the Internet of Things revolution, and that it will change our lives as fundamentally as the Internet did 20 years ago. As a homeowner, you won’t have to wait for the benefits of this technology, because you can easily start making your home smarter than a fifth grader with all the home security features and home devices already available to you!

What’s New in Home Security? We Look at the Latest in Locks

If your car is new enough, you probably don’t have a key to unlock the door or even to start the engine. Instead, you have a “proximity key” which means something you’re carrying will unlock your car door for you when you are close enough.

As someone who drives an older car with an old-fashioned key, I can’t quite wrap my head around that yet, but I’d better get caught up soon because door locks for houses are going high tech too!

A home security or home automation system is a smart way to protect your home, but—as we’ve said before—it’s not enough. You must take other steps too, including secure door and window locks. And those locks are getting ever more sophisticated while offering multiple advantages as high-tech locks. You can lock or unlock your door remotely using your smart phone when necessary. You can assign a temporary code to a non-family member who needs to access your house—say a neighbor who’s feeding the cat while you’re away. You can get a notification when the lock is used. And those are just a few of the new-fanged features!

When your lock’s looks count…
Your lock is a security feature, but it’s also prominent on the entry point of your home, so appearance might be of utmost importance to you. If you care about appearance and you want a lock that looks like a lock, you can find them. Some smart locks can be opened with a code on a keypad, as a keyless entry, or with a key, but they have a classy low-tech “lock look” even though they’re high tech on the inside.

When you want high-tech features with a low-tech look
Some new-fangled locks do double duty when they look like a regular deadbolt but are all high-tech. You can even find locks with a place to insert a key, but they work via a biometric scanner that’s hiding behind an innocuous looking lock. You put your finger under the scanner to gain access.

When you want your high-tech lock to have a high-tech look
Other new locks look as high tech as they perform–all sleek and streamlined, screaming they’re high tech and not pretending to be anything but!

Of course, you have other options for locking your front door that are low tech, and those options are fine too, as long as you’re using high-quality locks and the whole family is diligent about locking them. But if you want something more sophisticated, one of these high-tech options might be the best choice for you!

Tips for Getting Lit Up Before the Dark Days Arrive

October is here, Halloween is fast approaching, and daylight savings will end November 4th. Yep, it’s time to look at lighting! Use the tips below to make sure your lighting is adding to your home’s security, both inside and outside your home.

Inside your home
With a home automation system, you can put your lights on timers so they turn on when it starts to get dark, even if your house is empty. There are two safety reasons for having your lights turn on automatically.

  1. The lights turning on all of a sudden makes it look like someone’s home, to help deter burglars.
  2. When the lights are already on, you or your kids can see when first coming in the front door, reducing the risk of trips or falls in the dark.

Also take a walk around as dusk falls to evaluate your lighting needs. Are there dark corners or stairs that would be safer with better lighting? Are there nightlights for anyone who gets up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water during the night? Fix any problems spots you find, to decrease the chance of accidents.

Outside your home
Good lighting outside will also help deter burglars and reduce accidents, but it’s a little trickier because you’ll have to experience the dark spots to know where you need to make adjustments. Do your assessment when it’s dark and check for the following:

  • Are sidewalks and pathways clearly lit, for your family, but also for visitors?
  • Is the path to your shop or detached garage clearly lit?
  • Are there dark areas by doorways or windows where someone could hide while breaking in?

As you’re improving your outdoor lighting, keep in mind these three tips so your yard doesn’t end up looking like a brightly lit runway:

  1. Use motion sensors to provide light only when and where needed. Perhaps a soft light is enough most of the time, but a motion sensor can turn on a brighter light as someone approaches the house.
  2. Be wary of really bright lights that shine like a spotlight because they will also create dark shadows—and you want to avoid that.
  3. Be a good neighbor and make sure your lights are not annoying or pointing into anyone else’s yard.

And now? Now let the darkness come. You’re ready…

Shocking Survey Results: 60% of Us Are not Prepared for a Disaster

Why are we so ill-prepared for disasters in the U.S.? This isn’t just anecdotal. A new survey by Farmers Insurance shows how many of us are vulnerable to a natural disaster, due to lack of planning alone.

For National Preparedness Month last month, Farmers Insurance conducted a survey and published the results as both a list of findings and a planning resource. Among the shocking statistics, Farmers Insurance learned:

  • 70% of people living in the U.S. have experienced some kind of natural disaster.
  • One-third of those say they’ve been in a hurricane.
  • 60% of households do not have an emergency plan in place in case of a natural disaster.
  • 55% of people living in the U.S. don’t have an emergency kit.
  • 35% of those who do have an emergency kit and are pet owners don’t have any pet supplies in their emergency kit.

The results of that survey gave me a jolt because I fall into the “don’t have” category every time. We haven’t discussed emergency planning around here since we became empty nesters, which makes no sense, but is sadly true. So I am more than ready to tackle the emergency plan and kit as outlined in the document.

Your emergency plan
Are you also ready to get prepared? If so, the following suggestions offered by Farmers Insurance should help you develop your emergency plan for starters:

  • Know how you’ll receive emergency alerts. If the power goes out, as well as the Internet, how will you stay informed? A hand-powered or battery operated radio might be in order.
  • Know your evacuation route and shelter plan. If you have to evacuate, where will you go? Think about which roads might or might not be open in the event of a disaster. For us, for example, we really need to figure that out because we are three miles down a dead-end road. We could easily be cut off and unable to evacuate without a plan. If you have pets, research pet-friendly shelters ahead of time.
  • Know how you’ll get in touch with each other. Make sure everyone in the family has phone numbers memorized or written down in case a cell phone is lost and you can’t access your contacts. Then consider choosing a friend or family member who lives outside of the area as the contact point in case you can’t get in touch with each other.
  • Know where you’ll meet. If one person is at work and another at school and a third at home, and when disaster hits, meeting at home won’t be an option, where will you meet instead?

Your emergency kit
If you need to evacuate, you will need a grab-and-go emergency kit that you can take with you at a moment’s notice. Farmers Insurance recommends your kit include:

  • Water
  • Drinking water tablets
  • First aid kit
  • Canned food and can opener
  • Blankets, preferably the space saving emergency kind
  • Warm clothes
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Medication
  • Dust mask
  • Extra eyeglasses
  • Bleach
  • Baby items such as diapers and baby food
  • Pet items such as food, water bowl and leash
  • Hygiene products such as tissues and hand wipes
  • A plastic bucket in case toilets aren’t available
  • Battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Multifunctional axe/knife
  • Whistle
  • Trash bags
  • Small tent
  • Cooking stove, fuel and pot
  • Heavy gloves
  • Shovel
  • Rope
  • Wrench
  • Cash
  • Copies of important documents
  • Phone numbers

You can see the full list here. Note that most of these items are things you should have on hand, even if you don’t need to evacuate. So have this stuff handy regardless, okay?

Are you one of the 60%?
The year 2017 was the costliest ever, with natural disasters causing $306 billion worth of damage. As we near the end of 2018, it seems we had an easier year, but one thing is for certain: Natural disasters will always be a threat. We can’t do anything about that or the destruction they will do, but we can take steps to keep ourselves and our families safe by preparing ahead of time. And according to Farmers Insurance, 60% of us need to get our acts together and get ready!

Preparing for the Flu Season in the Wake of a Deadly One

“Flu season deaths top 80,000 last year” read the headline that caught my eye last week. Last year was the deadliest flu season since 1976, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, with 80,000 Americans dying from the flu and flu complications during the winter of 2017-2018.

It was an unusual flu season for other reasons too, according to the CDC. We had a record-breaking 900,000 hospitalizations due to the flu, and we had three weeks during which the entire country was affected by the flu at a high level as compared to the usual region-by-region activity of the virus.

Why was the flu season so bad?
Why was it such a deadly flu season? According to one source, the flu season was so bad for a combination of reasons:

  • The flu vaccine used was less effective.
  • The strains of flu were stronger and deadlier.
  • The number of sick people who passed along the flu to others was higher.

Although we can use hindsight to see why last year was so deadly, we can’t know what the next flu season will bring, so we must be prepared, to keep ourselves and our loved ones protected.

The flu can hurt us financially too
As we’ve written before, the consequences of the flu go beyond being sick or even hospitalized. Many of us are also negatively impacted when kids miss school and parents must stay home from work to care for them. Many of those parents are staying home without pay. And when you’re talking about millions of school days missed and 22% of those days uncompensated for the parents who had to take time off either to care for their children or because they were sick, you can see a huge financial impact due to the flu.

What can you do to prepare for this year’s flu season?
Experts say to assume this year’s flu season will be as bad as last year’s, and they recommend getting a flu vaccine by the end of October. However, getting a flu shot does not mean you won’t get the flu. So in addition to getting your flu shot, you should also follow this advice to minimize your risk:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and take good care of yourself. This strengthens your immune system. (Plus it’s plain old commonsense for healthy living!)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. The flu virus can survive 24 hours on hard surfaces and you won’t know if someone sick has touched that gas pump handle or ATM machine before you got there.

Also go to the CDC website to learn more about the flu vaccine and prevention.

To read about all those deaths from an illness we consider to be a “normal” one is heartbreaking. Let’s try to prevent another deadly year as we take steps to protect ourselves knowing a new flu season is coming.

This Checklist Makes a Workplace Security Self-Audit Easy

There’s something about September that makes me want to get organized. Maybe it’s the start of the new school year, which I’m still in tune with even though we’re empty nesters. I still get a thrill walking past the busy school supplies aisle while at the store, for goodness’ sakes!

Whatever it is about this time of year with the golden light and the cooler mornings, I get the urge to tackle projects, wrap up loose ends, and start anew. And that includes thinking about safety and security as the days get shorter, both at home and at work.

While perusing the Internet in search of good workplace safety tips, I came across this handy checklist:

Admittedly, we’ve done a few blog posts on workplace safety and doing safety audits, like this post on being disaster ready at work and this one on doing a home security review in the fall. But this checklist jumped out at me for three reasons:

  1. It’s easy to use! Print it out, work your way through it, and check the items off.
  2. It’s applicable to work too!
  3. It’s about everyday security.

In the wake of yet another hurricane (hello, Florence), we can get wrapped up in disaster preparedness and thinking about emergency situations. But the reality is we are more likely to get hurt or burgled during a normal day than we are to find ourselves caught in a natural disaster situation. And that’s why a simple safety audit like this one is a good way to go, to take steps to increase safety and security at all times.

If you own a business or work offsite at one, take a look at this checklist and consider printing it out, doing a walk-through, and fixing some of those little issues that put you at risk.

If you want to do a more thorough job and address disaster preparedness too, you can find a much more detailed workplace safety checklist offered by the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. There you’ll also find hundreds of checklists, forms, job descriptions and other resources, all focused on workplace safety.

Because the kids are back in school and they’re not the only ones with projects to tackle this fall…

View all of our security plans and features!

Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

-

We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

-
Read more reviews