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3 Ways to Make Theft Prevention Part of Your Daily Routine

When leaving for vacation, we take all kinds of precautions. We hire a pet-sitter and have them bring in the mail every day. We pack a huge suitcase with enough clothing to survive the apocalypse. We make sure every door and window is locked and secure for the two weeks we spend getting away. All this effort for less than 4% of the year is great, but what about the other 96% of the time that we aren’t traveling? Because burglaries don’t just happen when you’re clear across the world

Three out of every five home burglaries happen during the day while people are away at work or school. You probably won’t think to take as many precautions before you go to work as you do before you go on a vacation. So here are three easy ways to make theft prevention part of your daily routine.

One, Don’t Be a Show-Off
Now, this doesn’t mean you should be ashamed of having nice things, only that while you are away from home, valuables should be stored and put away out of sight. While cleaning up any clutter, make sure that jewelry, cash and small electronics can’t be seen from any windows. If you’ve recently made any large purchases, such as a new TV or gaming system, break down the cardboard boxes they came in before putting them out on the curb for recycling pick up–so no one sees the evidence.

Two, Knock Knock…Anyone Home?
Making it appear that someone is home is a great way to deter break-ins. Leaving lights on a timer not only fools potential burglars but also allows you to come home to a nicely lit environment. (And a home automation system makes this incredibly easy to do.) If you’re out running errands and will be back in a few hours, you could leave the radio or the TV on for noise. If you have an extra car, consider parking it in the driveway instead of the garage for the day when you’re gone, to trick any would-be burglars into thinking you’re there.

Three, Invest in Home Security
There’s no shame in getting some help from professionals! Only 17% of homes have a home security system, and yet 90% of convicted burglars say they would avoid a home with an obvious alarm system. Whether you’re doing a quick grocery store run, heading to work for the whole day, or heading halfway across the world on vacation, you can have peace of mind that your home is safe with a professional home security system.

It may not be New Years, but it’s never too late to make some changes to your routine. By incorporating just a few small habits into your morning before heading out the door or investing in a home security system, you can help keep your home safe and secure. And maybe with all the comfort you get from a burglar-free home, you can push through that work stress until it’s time for your next vacation…

Safe at Home: 4 Reasons to Keep Fido out of the Kitchen While Cooking

Our family recently got a new addition: an older, untrained rescue dog named Smokey. Even though he is a senior dog, he is still extremely active for his age. This means there are plenty of opportunities for our family members to get out and run with him! But it also means that he can get himself into trouble, especially in the kitchen.

Smokey has already made his way through two loaves of home-made bread, and two and a half marinating steaks. Now, food theft is one concern, but there are actually several safety reasons to keep your dog out of the kitchen while you’re cooking.

Below are four safety hazards that can be avoided when you keep your dog out of the way during meal prep:

One, Forbidden Food
Whether it’s tonight’s dinner sitting on the counter or an ingredient that dropped on the floor, you probably don’t want either to disappear into your dog’s mouth. Keeping Fido out of the kitchen helps protect any food you’re preparing as well as protects your furry friend from eating something that could be harmful to their doggy digestion. See this list of “human foods” you should avoid giving your pets.

Two, Hot Liquids
Between boiling water and hot oil, there are plenty of ways you can get burned while cooking. If it would hurt you, it would hurt your dog too—or both of you if the dog causes you to trip while carrying something hot. Then there’s the danger of a spill. Fido doesn’t have your kitchen awareness of what’s hot or not. To be safe, keeping your dog out of the kitchen and away from any potential spills would be your best bet.

Three, Sharp Objects
As careful as we try to be with sharp knives or scissors, accidents happen. Sure, you watch out for your own toes when you drop that carving knife, but in that split second you have to react, are you also paying attention to where your underfoot dog is? There’s also the potential of your furry friend trying to grab food off the counter, only to bring down a knife with half of a pot roast. And, again, the tripping hazard: Tripping over your pup while carrying a sharp knife sounds like a recipe for disaster to me!

Four, Tempting Trash
Even with a covered trash can, sometimes those smells from the garbage are just too tempting for your dog to resist. Although there’s a chance of Fido eating food that he shouldn’t if he gets into the trash, there are also other dangerous materials like aluminum foil and plastic that he could ingest. If everything smells like chicken, then in his mind wouldn’t it all taste like chicken? “Might as well eat it and see,” says doggy logic.

When you have a dog has part of your home and family, training is important to keep everyone safe: humans and hound. Yet the kitchen isn’t always a part of that training. To make sure your kitchen does become a safe haven during meal prep, find a solution that works for you and your family, such as making your pet stay on a mat or dog bed in an area of the home where they can still see you while you’re cooking. The goal isn’t to isolate them away from you, only to set boundaries for them. This way when they do get a treat during meal prep, it’s one that you choose to give them, and not an entire steak they steal from the counter.

Stay Warm—and Safe—with These 6 Ride Sharing Tips for Uber and Lyft

With no end in sight to this winter’s cold and icky weather, sometimes that walk to the grocery store or bus ride to work just doesn’t seem worth it. With ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft becoming commonplace (even in our very small town), more and more people are calling up cars with their smartphones.

As with all new technology, some people are more wary of it than others, but they have good cause to be, and scary Uber driver stories get shared all over social media. But these six tips below will help you stay safe.

  1. Keep your rating high and you’ll get a safer driver. A rider with a 4.9 rating won’t get a driver with a 4.4 rating, so you’re getting a safer driver. To keep that high rating, be ready to head out the door as soon as possible when you call your car. Make sure that your coat and shoes are on, your tab is paid, or your bag is packed. Forcing a driver to wait could give you a bad rating or even cause them to drive off after 2-5 minutes.
  2. Check the license number on your phone and make sure your car’s plates match. Your driver will understand if you take a few seconds to peek at the back of their car to make sure you’re getting in the right one.
  3. Speaking of, make sure this is actually your car! I have watched people hop into the back of my Uber or Lyft and travel a few feet before the car stops and they sheepishly hop back out. Your driver will know your name, so ask who the car is for before actually climbing inside.
  4. Some drivers provide water, snacks, candy and even phone chargers for their passengers. This is courteous and can really bump them up to a 5-star rating! If you do accept, do not consume anything that is not 100% sealed and untampered with. When in doubt, just politely decline.
  5. Use the app’s features to increase your safety factor. Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have tons of great ways to be informed about every aspect of your ride. Check the wait time before the car arrives, send an ETA to a friend so they’ll know your whereabouts, tip your driver ahead of time to prevent delays, or even learn how many rides your driver has done. If using UberPool or a Shared Lyft, you can also check where your driver is picking up and/or dropping off the other passengers so you’re aware of your surroundings at all times.
  6. This isn’t a safety tip, but some rider etiquette that could help your rating: Talk to your driver! Ask how their day is going, when they started driving, etc. If they don’t seem interested in a conversation, you don’t have to push it, but you can at least treat your driver like another human being and try to interact. Do not be one of those rude people who sits in the backseat on their phone acting like the driver isn’t even there.

Our world is changing and evolving every day because of technology. You can order food through Uber, online retailers now offer same-day delivery, and some phones can unlock by just using your face. With all this rapid change, it can be tough to stay on top of staying safe—but safety is always worth the effort. Always.

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.

Kids Stuck Inside on a Snow Day? Check Your Home for Hazards

As many schools’ winter breaks come to an end, children are heading back to their classrooms and out of the house. But even with school back in session, some states can have up to 50 days of weather-related school closures. So on days when the weather is too crummy to even play outside, how can little ones stay safe indoors with all that bottled up energy?

If your young children are stuck inside on a snow day, here are some safety tips to keep in mind while preparing for their time off from school:

Slipping or falling opportunities
Cabin fever could mean your kids are more rambunctious than usual, which could mean running inside the house (even if they aren’t supposed to). Look around your home for anything that might present a tripping or falling hazard, such as area rugs, cords or even corners of furniture. Also remind your kids about the dangers of horseplay on furniture, since a fall from a table or sofa would be worse than from their own two feet.

Falling objects
If falling children isn’t a concern, check for any potentially falling objects. Any heavy objects like televisions or stereos should be securely fastened to a wall or stand. Other hazards to scan your rooms for are objects that could be bumped into and broken if they fell, like vases or picture frames.

Hot water in cold weather
With dropping temperatures, your heat could be on all day and all night, posing a potential problem for kids out of sight. Try to keep an eye on little ones around hot water heaters, radiators, and even stoves and microwaves. Children are most likely to be scalded by hot water in drinks or baths, so be sure to be mixing cold water into anything too hot.

Even when your kids are stuck inside at home, they can be just as safe as if they were back in their classroom. When in doubt, if you think your child might get into something they shouldn’t, assume they will and prevent it. Whether the weather is stormy or snowy, wet or simply your typical winter, check your home for these hazards to ensure your child’s safety. Maybe tomorrow it will only be a late arrival instead of a whole day off…

Winter Storms Are Coming–Have You Checked the Roof?

Even though the holiday season is over, winter only started a month ago. While some areas have been experiencing a milder winter than usual, we still have a long stretch to get through until we can put away our snow tires and heavy coats. The storm that hit the Midwest and moved East last week caused hundreds of thousands of homes to lose power. Central Missouri reported up to 17 inches of snow!

Those of us outside the Midwest might not be so concerned with winter storms, but are you and your house protected in the event of one coming through your region? Because your roof is prone to damage during winter weather, the time to fix any existing issues and prevent any future problems is now.

Here are four ways to check for signs of damage or potential damage:

Clean Your Roof
Prevention starts with cleaning. If you have a dry day to check out your roof, look for clogged gutters or loose shingles. Leaving leaves or other debris in your gutter can block water from flowing through and cause ice dams when the temperature drops below freezing. And if frozen temperatures aren’t your concern, clogged gutters still leave a buildup of water that can cause rust and other water damage. This is also the time to replace any loose shingles, as shingles are your roof’s protection against water, and you don’t want them blowing away in the next storm!

Trim the Trees
This is a risk to check for whether the weather is dry or not. Look to see if there are any tree branches (or trees!) that could fall onto the roof under the weight of snow, rain or ice. Branches could also bend lower under a heavy weight, touching the roof. Trees and branches that fall during a storm can damage the surface and the structure of your roof, so clear away any that could cause problems later on.

Fix Faulty Flashing
If wet weather is more of a concern than snow and ice, then flashing around anything on your roof is at risk. Loose flashing can–and will–let water in. Now is a good time to check for flashing on other areas of your home too, to make sure everything is secure and watertight.

Examine Your Attic
There are two ways your attic can help with winter weather protection: ventilation and water damage. If your attic is cool and well ventilated, it can prevent snow from melting and creating ice dams. Also check for any water damage visible in the attic, such as mold or damaged insulation. This could be a sign of leaks in your roof and needs to be repaired before a big storm comes rolling through.

Winter roof protection might mean no spring roof repairs, leaving you more time for fun spring cleaning around your home. Just kidding! But it can save you time and money by preventing any major problems from arising. So give your roof a check-up, grab a warm beverage, and try to stay dry and warm until April finally arrives…

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.

Porch Pirates Now Part of the Holidays: Here’s How You Can Fight Back

It must be the holidays, because porch pirates are in the news again! In the same day, I heard about porch pirates in my part of the country (the Pacific Northwest) and Jersey City, where police are planting GPS tracking devices in boxes that look like Amazon deliveriesin order to catch thieves.

Porch piracy on the rise
Sadly, porch piracy is definitely increasing during the holiday season. One report released says 25.9 million Americans have had a package stolen during the holidays. That number was 23.5 million in 2015. And since Americans are doing more shopping online and will continue to do so, those “porch pirates” have plenty of booty to grab from front porches.

Ways to thwart thieves
Although you can insure packages in case they are stolen, what you really want is the package, right? That means you must take steps to thwart the pirates in the first place. Rather than risking packages getting delivered but never making their way to you, because someone absconded with them first, try these tips:

  • Use your home security system to see who is at your door and to unlock the door if it’s a package delivery. With the right home security setup, you can do this remotely—even while at work.
  • Choose to have your package delivered to a nearby Amazon locker, or have packages shipped to your local UPS store.
  • Have packages delivered to you at work or to a neighbor or family member who will be home when you’re not.
  • Look into getting your own P.O. Box at the post office.
  • Require a signature to confirm delivery.
  • Track packages while they’re en route and change the routing if you need to based on where you’ll be.

And now for the fun part…
The porch pirate topic isn’t all bad news. If you’d like to see someone get revenge on porch pirates, watch this 11 minute video of Mark Rober, a NASA engineer and YouTube star, doing just that. Rober spent 6 months designing and building a device that not only sprays glitter all over the thief when the booby-trapped package is opened, it also sprays fart spray and has four camera phones rigged to catch footage of the events while they unfold. Warning: If you watch the video, note that the thieves often use bad language when the booby trap goes off, although it’s all blanked out.

Porch pirates are now the new normal, but we can take steps to fight back…or maybe that NASA engineer will mass produce his booby trap, and we can put pirates off forever! We’ll only need a lot more glitter and fart spray…

8 Helpful Holiday Hints for the Last-Minute Mayhem

Although not everyone is in it for religious reasons, 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, and that means the countdown is on. To help you stay safe (if not necessarily sane) during the last few days before Christmas Day, we’ve pulled together a list of eight posts you’ll find useful—but might not be thinking about because baking and wrapping is top of mind! 

1. Prepping your vehicle for road trips
If holiday travel is on your agenda and you’re headed over the river and through the woods, make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip—especially if you might encounter winter weather. 

2. Protecting your packages
Porch pirates are real: 23 million Americans have packages stolen from their front porch each year. Definitely read this post if you’re getting packages delivered and you’re considering ways to keep them safe, because you’ll get tips for thwarting the porch pirates who’d like to make your packages into their booty. Or find out if you need a service like Amazon Key or if your home security system will protect your packages for you. 

3. Getting teens to town safely
If you have college students who are homebound for the holidays by car, go over the safety advice in this post to ensure safe travels. If they are traveling by plane or train, see this post for excellent advice to share with them. 

4. Making sure Fido will be fine
If you’re traveling and your pets will need looking after, follow the advice here on finding a good pet sitter and ways to prepare your pet and your pet sitter before you leave. Read more…

5. Decorating with a safety-first mindset
This post offers holiday safety tips to use throughout your home as you’re decorating! Also see tips for keeping your Christmas tree fresh and less fire-prone. 

6. Staying safe if you’re still doing your shopping
Many of us are still shopping up until the last minute! Read the tips in this post to make sure you’re safe, whether shopping online or in person. Although the advice is specific to Thanksgiving weekend, it applies to the whole holiday shopping season. 

7. Taking safety into account when buying toys
All toys are not created equal and some pose a bigger threat than others. Before you start your toy buying, review the safety tips in this post to ensure the toys you give will be both fun and safe. 

8. Giving home security as the gift that lasts all year
If you’re stumped for gift ideas, consider home security. This post explains why it’s an excellent gift the whole year long. Read more…

Despite the decline in the religious reasons for celebrating the holiday, Christmas is still a major event for most Americans, making it a busy time of year that can lead to mistakes and missteps. Review this list of posts for reminders, and stay safe this holiday season and into the new year! 

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!

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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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