Tag Archives: safe

Data Privacy Day Is January 28: Time to Prepare and Protect!

Did you know that January 28th is a day dedicated to safety and security? It’s National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day! Yes, there really is a holiday for just about everything. However, January 28th is also Data Privacy Day, and that might be more important to observe than popping bubble wrap.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) promotes international Data Privacy Day to raise awareness of the importance of privacy and protecting personal information. In today’s always-connected world that’s threatened by data breaches and data mining, it’s more necessary than ever to be aware of how your personal data is captured, stored and used.

In celebration of Data Privacy Day, here are three areas you can protect yourself and your personal information when it comes to data security…

In Your Home
Your “private” information may be more public than you realize. Now is the time to check privacy settings on your social media sites, apps and smart devices like phones or tablets. Also talk to your family members about what they share online, and how their information can be bought and sold without their knowledge. Yes, your personal data has a monetary value, so be sure to protect it.

In the Workplace
Data security is just as important at work. Make sure all systems or devices are up-to-date to help protect your company’s privacy. This includes any virus or malware protection you may (and should) have. Also check that your personal devices aren’t syncing to work devices, such as onto the same cloud. This helps to protect you, but it also protects the network at work, should your personal device get compromised.

In Your Community
Help members of your community by spreading the word and providing resources about Data Privacy Day. This could mean asking your elderly neighbor if they need assistance protecting their technology, or sending information to the parents of your children’s friends. Anyone lacking experience with cyber security is sure to benefit from your helping hand, especially if you educate them on the risks.

Knowledge is power, and in this case power means protection. Try to set some time aside on January 28th to secure your personal data, even if it means finally accepting those updates that have been popping up on your computer for weeks. Speaking of popping, maybe pop some bubble wrap too, because we could all use a little stress relief now and then.

The Top 10 Safety and Security Posts of 2018—to Guide You into a Safer New Year

Another year has come and gone. And we are doing our usual looking backwards to review 2018 and decide what to bring forward into the new year…as well as what to leave behind. Which brings us to safety and security, of course!

During the past year, we served up over 50 blog posts on home security and safety topics. To wrap up 2018 with a flourish, we’ve sorted through those 50 posts to make this list of the top 10. The criteria? The topics we consider of the highest priority based on what poses the greatest risks to us, our loved ones and our homes. Without further ado, here are our top topics for the past year, those we consider still high priorities as we move into 2019:

As mentioned above, we delivered over 50 posts over the past year, covering everything from online shopping to college campus safety tips. You can find every safety and security topic at our blog, so take a look and discover all the other ways you can keep yourself, your family and your home safe and secure in 2019.

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!

Aggressive Driving: Not Worth the Risk!

What’s it like to be hauling three horses in a trailer on winding, hilly roads, while drivers aggressively pass you and honk in anger as they fly by? Kind of scary, to be honest! And that’s what I experienced this past week while driving to and from a beach trip with friends and horses.

I was shocked at just how rude and aggressive the other drivers were, especially given that I was driving the speed limit and only slowing down on curves, and because I was obviously towing a horse trailer full of live animals, not a boat or other inanimate object. So I got curious: Are drivers getting more aggressive, or is it my imagination?

It’s not my imagination. Nor is it unique to my state or even the country I live in. It turns out that aggressive driving is on the increase all over the world, and people are dying as a result.

What is aggressive driving?
Aggressive driving is not the same as road rage. Aggressive driving is defined as intentional driving behavior that puts the driver (and others on the road) at risk. While road rage is usually the result of some kind of altercation, aggressive driving is done intentionally. This is a key difference because people who are aggressive drivers are doing so on purpose.

Aggressive driving includes:

  • Speeding, whether that means driving faster than the posted speed limit or too fast for the weather or road conditions
  • Frequently changing lanes or weaving in and out of traffic
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Tailgating
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Not letting other drivers merge
  • Cutting off other drivers
  • Passing on the right
  • Passing on the shoulder of the road
  • Not using turn signals when changing lanes
  • Honking your horn
  • Flashing headlights
  • Yelling and gesturing at other drivers to make it clear just how pissed off you are

Aggressive driving is dangerous!
If you don’t think driving aggressively is a big deal, take a look at these numbers that prove otherwise:

How to put a stop to aggressive driving
Once you see those numbers, I hope you’ll agree that driving aggressively is simply not worth the risk. So what can we do about it?

If you’re the one driving aggressively, start by recognizing and admitting to your behavior. You’re not going to get anywhere any faster by driving that way, and you are putting yourself and any passengers at risk. Try to relax and take a deep breath. Listen to soothing music or an audiobook that will take your mind off your frustrations. Recognize when you’re getting in the car angry, such as after a bad day at work. You want to make it home safely, right? And you want everyone else to make it home safely too, I’m sure. So dial it back.

What if you’re driving safely but you’re on the receiving end of the dangers of an aggressive driver? Do not start driving like them or trying to get back at them. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt and stay clear of them.

Just because a behavior has become the new normal does not mean we have to behave that way. We can put safety and security first. As for me, I’m ordering “Caution Horses” stickers for the back of my trailer…and taking a lot of deep breaths on my next road trip with those live animals in tow.

Safety for School Days: 9 Rules for Safer Travels to and from School

Although we no longer have kids living at home, and the first day back to school is now on college campuses without mom needed (or wanted) to send anyone off, I still see all the first day of school pictures posted by friends on social media. And that reminds me once again of the importance of safety rules for kids getting to and from school.

No matter the age of your children, if they are going to and from school, they need some rules. And the sooner you instill those rules in them, the sooner the rules will become habits—habits that can last a lifetime.

To get you started, we offer nine rules for safer travels to and from school below:

Rule 1: Stick to the sidewalk
For those kids who walk to the bus stop or to school, they need to stay on the sidewalk. No walking out behind cars or in the road, or even in people’s yards. The sidewalk is there for a reason. Stay on it.

Rule 2: Avoid shortcuts
Shortcuts are a no no. Your kids should take the same route every day, and walk with other kids whenever possible. Talk to other parents with kids taking the same route to get all the kids traveling as a group, even if they’re just walking to the bus stop up the street.

Rule 3: Be careful when crossing the street
Kids are kids and, at any age, they can be careless when crossing the street. Remind your kids to look both ways, make eye contact with the drivers of the cars they assume are going to stop for them, and use crosswalks. Then remind them again.

Rule 4: Put the phone away!
Kids really should put their phones away when going to and from school. If they don’t, they are more likely to be distracted and step out into traffic, trip and fall, or not notice suspicious activity. If they are teenagers who drive, they most definitely should not be on their phones! Kids can send you a text when they leave the school, put their phones in their backpacks, and then pull their phones out to let you know they’re home. Period.

Rule 5: Stay safe at the bus stop
For kids who taking bus, the rule is to stay in the designated bus stop area. After school, they should go directly from the bus stop to their home or their daycare.

Rule 6: Don’t be too early
Although teaching kids to try to arrive early to events is a good habit to teach, many schools don’t have supervision outside the building until shortly before the school day starts. That leaves kids who arrive really early unsupervised by adults. Teach kids early is good, but too early is not safe, and have a designated time for your child’s arrival, when you know the school will either be open or have supervision.

Rule 7: No dawdling
Also make sure your kids know not to dawdle after school. They need to head straight to their next destination, whether that’s home, practice, daycare or somewhere else.

Rule 8: Know the rules of the road
For kids who ride their bikes to school and those who drive, reiterate the safety rules of each.

Rule 9: Have a password
Especially for younger kids, have a password. That password would be used if someone had to pick up your child unexpectedly, say if you were in an accident, for example. If your child is approached by a stranger who claims you sent them, the child should be taught to ask for the password. If the stranger doesn’t know it, the child should be taught to yell for help.

These days it seems fewer kids walk to school because parents are driving them in cars. But kids are still getting to and from school, and still need safety rules for doing so. And since the rules can apply to almost any situation, consider making one of the first lessons of this school year safety first.

Sometimes Safety Simply Requires Putting Away the Smart Phone

We have just returned from an amazing trip to a foreign country and I have bad news: I saw as many people glued to their smart phones there as I see in the U.S. On the one hand, you might argue that that’s a good thing, because it shows we live in a global, connected world. I say it’s a case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that has us all glued to our phones, but we should have another fear instead: the consequences of staring at our small screens.

What does it matter that we have home security systems and fancy car locks and smoke detectors if the real risk to our safety is the phone in the palm of our hand? Because if you look at the research, those phones are causing accidents and even deaths—and they would be less of a threat if we could simply put them away sometimes.

Let’s start with the obvious ones: accidents
We’ve all heard we shouldn’t text and drive, and it’s illegal to do so in many states. But still people do it, causing 1.6 million accidents per year. If that number doesn’t scare you, how about these statistics: 3,500 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2015, and another 391,000 were injured. Still not scared? How about this: 11 teenagers die every single day due to texting and driving. (You can find a whole lot more scary texting while driving statistics here.)

And it’s not just teenagers who are guilty of the crime. Nor is it just car accidents that are a regular occurrence due to smart phones. This short video demonstrates just how dangerous it is to walk down the street while on your phone. (Do you see the guerilla??) When people are on their phones while walking, they walk into walls, into fountains, into a loose bear, out into the street where they are hit by cars, or even right off a pier requiring a Coast Guard rescue. (I am not making any of this up!)

And then there’s our health
If reading that section above didn’t make you want to spend a little less time with your smart phone, let’s talk about the consequences on our physical well-being. Smart phone use is bad for our eyes, our posture, and our sleep. People who spend a lot of time on their smart phones are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, pain, muscle spasms, and chronic diseases. We can get eye strain and even dry eye syndrome. Our necks are bent down and our arms are uplifted in unnatural ways for long periods of time. That’s gotta hurt at some point! And bright phone screens suppress melatonin levels, making it harder to go to sleep.

Finally, our mental and social health
Spending so much time on our phones is dangerous as we drive and walk. It’s bad for our physical well-being. And, ironically, it’s bad for our mental and social health too. Kids and teenagers disconnect from the world around them—we’ve all witnessed that. But adults can do the same when too caught up in those tiny screens. Heavy duty cell phone use also reduces our brain activity and makes it harder to pay attention, either to a task at hand or to a conversation. Socially, we’ve seen a huge increase in depression and suicides among teens, and convincing research links those increases at least in part to smart phone usage because of social media.

I am as thankful for my phone as the next person. I can keep up with my kids, find my way to a restaurant, check the weather, and stay on top of work email when out of the office. With some apps, I have no choice but to use my phone—like if I need to buy a train ticket. But we all must be aware that there is a time and a place to have that phone out and our attention focused on that, and a time and a place to be focused on what’s going on in the world around us—no matter where in the world we live.

Streetwise Safety: 6 More Tips for Staying Safe While on the Road

Photo by Annie Theby on Unsplash

Are you looking forward to getting away this summer? Me too! My vacation time can’t get here fast enough! But heading out of town is not without risks. Being on the road, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, raises your risk factor. You’re in unfamiliar territory and you’re probably distracted, thinking about the trip itself.

Because your safety is a top concern for us and as a follow-up to tips we’ve previously published about staying safe while on the road, we offer a six more tips now that summer is in full swing:

1 Avoid using public WiFi
Yes, it seems like every hotel and airport now offers free WiFi, and it’s so easy to log into and use, but that free access also makes it easier for thieves to hack into your device and steal personal information.

2 Protect your phone
Most people keep a lotof personal information on their phones, so losing it puts us at risk. Before you hit the road, password protect your phone so only you can unlock it, and install a tracking device on your phone in case it does get lost or stolen.

3 Anticipate
Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, try to stay alert to what is going on around you at all times: when walking down the street, eating in a restaurant, unlocking the door of your hotel room…at all times. It can be easy to get into a zone when on the road, either because we’re on vacation and mentally taking a break, or because we’re traveling for work and our minds are caught up in anticipating that next big meeting. But when we space out, we won’t notice suspicious behavior, and next thing you know, you’re a victim.

4 Stay rested
Fatigue makes you a dangerous driver if you’re behind the wheel, but it also makes you a bigger risk. People who are tired are inattentive and slow to react to situations. Our decision-making abilities are also impaired when we’re tired. If you’re tired, try to avoid situations where you’re vulnerable.

5 Walk safely
Use sidewalks and cross walks even if the locals don’t. You don’t know the rules of the road in this new locale and they do.

6 Act paranoid
We try not to leave our commonsense at home, but sometimes when we’re relaxing, it’s just so easy to let our guard down. Don’t. Don’t drink too much in public. Avoid hanging out with people you really don’t know. Return to your hotel at a decent time at night. Use the hotel’s main entrance when it’s dark. Make sure that Uber drives looks like his or her photo. Stick to main roads and beaten paths. It won’t be as much fun, but it will be a whole lot safer!

Finally, also make sure you review our previous 4 tips on streetwise safety. Because we want you to enjoy your summer, but stay safe the whole time too.

8 Ways to Make Your Home Safer This Summer—Before the Guests Arrive

What does safety mean to you? For some, it means eliminating accidents and for others it’s synonymous with home security and keeping intruders out. Regardless of your definition, being safe is always a concern, whether you’re at work or at home, at school or on the road.

But we tend to take safety in the home for granted. After all, it’s our home, our sanctuary, our place to get away from the pressures of the outside world. How can it not be safe? Sadly, in lots of ways!

So let’s change that. As the pace of life slows down for many with the end of the school year and summer stretching out before us, let’s take a little time to review our homes and make sure we aren’t overlooking any hazards—especially because we might have summer visitors we also want to keep safe!

  1. Test smoke alarms on a regular basis, at least once every few weeks. Yes, keep changing out the batteries twice a year, but make sure the batteries are still good in the meantime. During the summer, people tend to be away from home more often and might not even know a battery has died if they weren’t there to hear the beeping noise it makes when it needs replacing.
  2. Have an escape plan in case of fire, and ladders to get you safely from second-story rooms to the ground outside. It might seem awkward, but go over the escape plan with your summer guests—to be on the safe side.
  3. Speaking of fire, if you have a fire pit outside, have safety rules for everyone who sits around the fire but particularly for little ones who could be running around and end up getting burned. Adhere to these rules! And make sure kids aren’t unattended by the fire.
  4. Check for lighting inside and out to make sure you’re eliminating trip hazards by making them visible. Think about people making their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night or walking up to your front door while it’s dark outside. Consider putting lights on timers or programming your home automation system so lights are always on when needed.
  5. Also check for trip hazards, such as hoses outside and throw rugs inside. Even if you’re used to stepping over them or treading lightly so you won’t slip, think in terms of company coming over and someone unaware taking a fall because they didn’t know to tread carefully on or around that rug. If you have stairs or other uneven footing guests won’t be aware of, consider putting down colorful tape so it’s easier to see.
  6. Make doubly sure anything poisonous is well out of reach of little ones, even if your kids are older or grown and gone, since you could very well have a young visitor. This applies inside and outside the house, if you have lawn care or gardening supplies stored in your garage, for example.
  7. Make kitchen safety a habit by keeping sharp and hot items away from the edges of countertops and tablecloths that can be pulled down. If you’re barbecuing outside, follow the same rules, keeping sharp and hot objects out of reach of little ones.
  8. Double check window locks and latches, to make sure kids can’t inadvertently get a window open and possibly fall.

This is only a partial list of tips for improving the safety of your home with summer and guests in mind. Obviously other outdoor items such as swimming pools, trampolines and even play equipment require strict safety rules that you’ll want to adhere to. But these tips above should serve as reminders that it’s safety first, even within the sanctuary of your home. If you’d like a much more comprehensive list of safety tips, Real Simple offers a detailed room-by-room guide.

Everyone Should Learn to Swim: Kids, Teens and Yes, Adults…Here’s Why

I’m going to tell you a sad story, but there is a reason for it: A friend lost a grown child to drowning. His son had taken a few swimming lessons as a teenager, but didn’t like the water. He wasn’t a strong swimmer as a result, and one day with friends at a lake, he went in the water, got tangled in some plants, and drowned. He was in his early 20s with a bright future ahead of him, and then this. The family was devastated and it tore them apart.

Why am I leading with such a sad tale? Because summer is almost here and kids need to know how to swim—but so does everyone else.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death for children. But it claims the lives of teenagers and adults too. According to the CDC, unintentional drowning ranks fifth in the U.S. as a cause of death by injury, and of the 10 people on average who die by drowning every day, only two are children: the other eight are 15 years old and older.

My conclusion? Everyone should learn to swim.

It’s not too late
Everyone needs to know how to swim not because we’re all planning beach vacations, but because it is a safety issue. Anyone who boats or kayaks or floats down the river on an inner tube must know how to swim. But what about an accidental fall from a dock while walking around the marina? Or participating in some water-based activity while on a trip? Or or or…? There are many situations that can lead to an unintentional dunk in deep water!

So it’s time to tackle this issue. Although you might think swimming lessons are only available for youngsters, that’s not true. And even if you took some lessons as a child, if you haven’t been in the water in the many years since, you might consider some additional lessons. Just like it’s never too late to install a home security system or start wearing a seatbelt, it’s never too late to learn to swim. Researching this post, I read about a 70-year-old who took swimming lessons!

If you don’t swim or you don’t swim very well, it’s time for some adult swimming lessons. Or if your kids didn’t get lessons and now they’re teens, it’s time to close that safety gap.

Benefits beyond safety
For teens and adults, the benefits of learning to swim can go beyond safety. Swimming is a sport that’s easier on the body than running, and therefore an activity people can continue to do for physical fitness no matter their age. It’s also an activity you can do year-round, as long as you can get to an indoor pool. For those who decide they truly enjoy it, swim leagues provide opportunities for adults to compete in the sport. And for anyone who wants to compete in triathlons, swimming is required.

One final reason everyone should learn to swim
If you’re not interested in being a better swimmer for your own sake, do consider the safety factor of your children. Should your child end up in distress out in the lake while you’re camping, don’t you want to have the necessary skills to be able to swim out and help or even save them? This applies to boating and kayaking and other water sports as well. In addition, children learn more by watching what we do, not doing what we say. The children who see their mom or dad take water safety seriously, including swimming, or more likely to make better, safer choices later in their own life, decreasing the risk of their death by drowning.

As for the sad story at the beginning of this post, I think about that family every year at this time as people start to flock to lakes and rivers and boats to enjoy summer activities. And yes, I need to heed my own advice. I know how to swim but definitely do not swim well. Maybe this is

Facebook Faux Pas: Giving Away Your Privacy When You’re Getting Away on Vacation

Are you planning a getaway this summer? Don’t answer that! Or at least don’t answer it publicly. Because you really don’t want to make your vacation vacancy public knowledge, although it’s easy to be tempted to do so.

Maybe you’re not one of those people who share just a little too much on Facebook. You know, the ones with no filters and apparently no need for privacy as their every mood, whim, argument and meal is documented on the social media platform. But when it comes to your vacations, you could be just as guilty of over-sharing, because you’re sharing information that puts your home and you at risk. To avoid giving away too much, follow these tips for protecting your property and your privacy when going on vacation:

Keep it to yourself
It’s shocking how much information people will reveal on Facebook, including details about their upcoming trips. Sure, you’re anticipating that getaway, whether you’re headed to the annual family reunion or you’re going to the beach. But posting about it ahead of time puts your home at risk when someone who does not need to know your house will be empty finds out your house will be empty!

Postpone your pics
Once you’re gone on your trip, post your pictures after you get home rather than advertise to the world that your house is sitting empty. This also gives you time to sort through the pictures so you only post the best of them, not all of them, because really, no one wants to see all of them.

In addition, not posting means no geotagging of photos, which can happen automatically without your knowing. Geotagging tells people wherea picture was taken, and not everyone needs to know your exact location at every minute of the day. Even if you don’t think you have reasons to keep your location to yourself, wouldn’t you rather err on the side of just a little more privacy than a little less?

Speaking of tagging…
If you simply can’t help yourself and you’re going to post pictures while away, avoid tagging the people you’re travelling with just in case they have different views about privacy. What’s fine for you to share might be too much for them.

Enjoy telling your tales after you’re home
None of this is to say you shouldn’t be allowed to do some bragging once you’re back! Of course you want to talk about the wonderful time you had and share your favorite pictures…and you should! It’s just the timing that we’re concerned with. Wait until you’re home again and your home is no longer vacant before you tell your vacation tales.

P.S. For tips on posting pictures people will like and respond to (while avoiding pictures you might regret later), see this useful advice.

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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!

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