Make Better Home Security Your New Year’s Resolution

new year 2019

Now that 2019 has finally arrived, your home security is going to need some assessment.

A lot can change in a year; crime may have increased where you live, and it’s important to stay on top of the best technology to help you deter that crime. This year make it a personal commitment to make your home safer.  Read on for some tips that could help you.

1. Adjust your security habits
Has your smoke detector been without batteries for a few months?  Is your doorknob a little wobbly?  It’s easy to notice these problems while simply looking past them, thinking a repair is too much effort.  But recovering after your home security is compromised will take far more effort than a quick fix.  Practice good habits, like regularly replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors and start locking all your doors always, even if someone is home. And, of course, now is a great time to invest in a home automation system; this will allow you to keep your home safe from afar.

2. Update your systems
With the new year comes new technology.  You may have security cameras to help protect your home, but it’s possible they’re more than a bit out of date now that it’s 2019. Ensure that your security technology is the absolute best quality; tech updates happen for a reason, and it’s likely that newer models of cameras and automation systems are likely to protect you better than the previous model would.  Consider keeping the same attitude towards other security measures, such as carbon monoxide or fire detectors.

3. Add more features
You can never have too much security.  If you’ve already got an alarm system, consider investing in cameras for the exterior of your home.  And home automation, as mentioned, is a great tool for keeping your home safe and efficient at the same time.  Carbon monoxide detectors are also not present in every home, when they really should be.  Consider purchasing several to keep your family that much safer.

Solucient Security offers homeowners simple, smart, and professionally installed, monitored, and verified security solutions to protect your home. Contact us to learn more.

Heating your wintertime home safely

woodpile

There’s nothing better than settling into a warm house while the cold wind blows outside. But, getting — and keeping — your home heated may pose a safety issue if you don’t take the right precautions.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading months for home heating fires are December, January and February. Additionally, some of the methods used to heat your home may expose your family to toxic carbon monoxide levels if they are not used properly.

Follow these tips for heating your home safely when the temperature drops outside.

Furnace

Before the winds of winter roll in, consider having your furnace inspected by a professional, says U.S. News and World Report. This may help lower the chances you will encounter a heating problem during the cold winter months. The professional will look for various problems, including carbon monoxide leaks, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). They may also vacuum out the furnace’s vents and check to see if the furnace’s filter needs replacing, according to HGTV.

The magazine also recommends making sure no furniture is placed in front of your vents so the warm air can flow evenly throughout the room. Finally, changing your air filters on a regular schedule may help to reduce your energy bill because the furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to heat the space.

Fireplace

Before lighting your first fire of the season, consider having your fireplace professionally cleaned and inspected. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a technician will inspect the chimney’s interior and exterior, ensure that it doesn’t contain any combustible deposits and isn’t obstructed. During the cleaning, you can also ask the technician to show you how to inspect the chimney in between visits, suggests HGTV.

When you’re ready to light a fire, be sure to check the fireplace area for anything flammable. The NFPA recommends using a sturdy fireplace screen to stop sparks from flying out of the fire and into the room and keeping anything flammable at least three feet away from the fireplace.

Finally, before you light a match, learn how to safely build a fire.

Space heaters

According to the NFPA, space heaters cause 43 percent of home fires. To keep your family and home safe when using a space heater, make sure you are purchasing a space heater with an Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label, according to the DOE. You may also want to consider looking for a space heater with advanced safety features, including sensors that shut it off in case it overheats or tips over, says Consumer Reports.

Once you get the space heater home, it is important to set it up in the room correctly. The Electrical Safety Foundation International recommends placing the heater on a level surface, out of reach of anything flammable and plugging it directly into the power outlet.

Following the tips above can help make sure your home is safely heated all winter long.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Dashing through the snow? Follow these safety tips

snowmobilng-sault-ste-marie

Michigan boasts some of the best snowmobile riding options in the country, but every year there are multiple crashes on local roads and trails.

For that reason, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has compiled a list of safe riding tips that will help keep riders safe once the snow starts to fly.

  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
  • Always wear insulated boots and protective clothing including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
  • Never ride alone.
  • When possible, avoid crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to fences and low strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and tail lights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look for traffic.
  • Always check the weather conditions before you depart.
  • Slow down! Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal accidents.
  • Don’t drink – alcohol impairs judgment and slows reaction time. Make it ‘none’ for the trail.

Live to enjoy Michigan’s winter wonderland!

Source: Michigan DNR

How to prep your home for the coming winter

Winter home2

As the temperature drops and the chill in the air turns to frost, it’s time to turn your attention to ensuring your home is ready for winter. Much like your car, your home needs some preparation for the upcoming elements, too. Here are some tips to help make sure your abode is cozy, energy-efficient and safe as Old Man Winter makes his appearance.

Reverse your fans

You may not often think about your ceiling fan blades, but come winter, you should. Turns out, if you switch the direction of the ceiling fan blades to spin clockwise and run on a low speed, you can gently circulate warm air down from the ceiling, according to EnergyStar.gov.

Maintain your chimney

If you have a working fireplace, get your chimneys cleaned and inspected annually by a pro to help decrease the risk of fire from buildup or blockages, says the Chimney Safety Institute of America. These yearly inspections may also help to prevent carbon monoxide intrusion.

Adjust water heater temperature

While making home adjustments, consider lowering the temperature on your water heater. Most are set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit as a default, but some households only need a setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit for comfort. A lower temperature may also reduce wear and tear on the pipes, and according to the Department of Energy (DOE), save you as much as $30 per year for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature is lowered.

Tune up that furnace

When it’s time to crank up the heat, you want to be sure it’s running properly. Consult a technician for an annual tune-up before the system requires daily use, says This Old House. If you haven’t already, install (or pay a pro to install) a programmable thermostat that can automatically lower the temperature when people aren’t home. You may save as much as 10 percent a year on heating, according to EnergyStar.gov.

Block drafts

This winter, you don’t want cold drafts making their way into your living room. Use weather stripping, window film and caulk to help control heat loss around doors, windows and baseboards. According to the DOE, a reduction in drafts may save up to 30 percent in energy costs per year. And if your home has storm doors, remove the screens and replace them with the glass panels.

Snow blower ready?

Consult the owner’s manual and give your snow blower a thorough pre-season checkup. Be sure to fill up your blower with fresh gas, unless you have an electric model, and check the tire pressure, says Consumer Reports.

Prevent pests

When it’s cold out, pests may seek shelter in a warm home. And, according to PestWorld.org, a mouse can fit through a hole the size of a dime. This means you’ll want to seal any holes and cracks (even the tiny ones) around the exterior of your home to help ensure pests like mice can’t get inside.

Avoid a burst pipe

Water freezing in your home’s pipes may cause serious problems. To help combat this, shut off the water to exterior faucets and drain the lines, FairfaxCounty.gov advises. You’ll also want to insulate any pipes near the exterior walls of your home or in unheated areas like a garage, says the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

With these winterizing tips, your home may be a little cozier and safer, all while you save some money, too. Be prepared for the chilliest time of year, so you can sit back and watch the snow fall from your warm, winter-ready home.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Take to the open road with an auto emergency kit

winter driving2

Emergencies can happen to anyone. Whether you run out of fuel, puncture a tire, or slip off a snowy road, keep a car emergency kit to help you get back on the road safely and quickly.

In addition to the items listed below, a cellular phone is highly advised. Make sure your cell phone is charged every time you get in the car and keep a cell phone charger in your car.

Keep these items in a bag in your trunk. Ideally, we’d suggest a clear, plastic container so it’s easy to see everything.  You can buy a pre-packaged kit or create your own.

  • Flashlight, plus extra batteries
    Jumper cables
    First Aid Kit (band-aides, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antiseptic cream). See First-aid kit checklist.
    Bottled water
    Multi-tool (such as a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army Knife)
    Road flares or reflective warning triangles

Other essentials:

  • Small fire extinguisher (5-lb., Class B and Class C type) in case of a car fire
    Tire gauge to check inflation pressure in all four tires and the spare tire
    Jack and lug wrench to change a tire
    Gloves, rags, hand cleaner (such as baby wipes)
    Duct tape
    Foam tire sealant for minor tire punctures
    Rain poncho
    Nonperishable high-energy foods such as granola bars, raisins, and peanut butter
    Battery– or hand-crank–powered radio
    Spare change and cash
    Maps

For those in wintry areas, add the below items to your emergency kit. (If it’s balmy all winter where you live, be thankful that you don’t need all this stuff!)

  • Blankets, gloves, hats
    Ice scraper
    Collapsible or folding snow shovel
    A bag of sand to help with traction (or bag of kitty litter)
    Blanket
    Tire chains and tow strap
    Hand warmers
    Winter boots for longer trips
    Sleeping bag for longer trips

Source: Farmers’ Almanac

Homeowners’ big decision: Flood insurance coverage

flood

When Hurricane Harvey stalled over Houston last August, it dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the city and put entire neighborhoods underwater. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated the damages at $180 billion, and many residents found they are on the hook for repairs to their houses. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, only 17 percent of homeowners in the hardest hit areas have flood insurance.

“It’s one of those things where people think: I’m not susceptible to a flood,” says Fran O’Brien, division president of Chubb Personal Risk Services. They may think since they sit on a hill or are located relatively far from a coastline or a river that they won’t be affected by rising waters.

Alternatively, some people erroneously believe their homeowners insurance will pay for damage due to flooding. While some companies provide coverage for events such as sewer backups, payment for damage from rising flood waters requires a separate policy.

Risk extends past the floodplain. When it comes to who needs to buy flood insurance, the answer is easy for those who live in high-risk areas and have a mortgage. In those cases, a lender may require coverage.

For everyone else, it’s not as clear. “That’s actually a very complex question: Who’s at risk?” says Kate Stillwell, founder and CEO of Jumpstart Insurance Solutions. “The biggest misconception is that floods can only happen in a mapped zone.”

Many Houston residents have discovered the hard way that being in a low-risk area is no guarantee of avoiding flood damage. An analysis from the University of California-Davis Center for Watershed Sciences estimates 53 percent of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurred in areas deemed to have a minimal flood hazard.

Experts say there is no easy way to determine if a homeowner should buy flood insurance. In addition to their location in proximity to waterways, people should consider whether their basement is finished and what other resources they might have to respond to a flooding event.

O’Brien says homeowners may need to use a combination of government and private flood insurance to fully insure their property. While NFIP policies won’t pay for temporary housing or cover loss of income, those may be options with private policies. Other plans may offer only supplemental coverage. -term out-of-pocket costs.

To make sure homeowners get the right type and level of coverage, O’Brien strongly recommends working with a trusted insurance agent or broker. “It’s very, very important that you get good advice,” she says.

In addition to buying insurance, homeowners should inspect sump pumps annually and consider landscaping features that will divert water from a home. Beyond taking those precautions, the only other thing left to do is hope the next record-setting storm doesn’t hit close to home.

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Clean indoor air can help reduce asthma attacks

air cleaner

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 million Americans, including roughly seven million children, have asthma, a number that has steadily risen in recent years.

Asthma is more than occasional wheezing or feeling out of breath during physical activity. It is a chronic condition that can lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, fast breathing, and chest tightness, states the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In the 21st century, people spend significant time indoors at home, school or work, and indoor air environments could be triggers for asthma. Improving indoor air quality can help people breathe clearly. The AAFA notes that the following agents can adversely affect indoor air quality, potentially triggering asthma attacks.

Allergens

Allergens such as mold, dust mites, pet dander and fur, and waste from insects or rodents thrive in many homes. Ensuring indoor air quality is high can cut back on the amount of allergens in the air. People with asthma can invest in an air purifier and vacuum regularly, being sure to use a HEPA-equipped appliance. Routinely replacing HVAC system filters can help prevent allergens from blowing around the house. Also, frequent maintenance of HVAC systems will ensure they are operating safely and not contributing to poor indoor air quality.

Mold can be mitigated by reducing moisture in a home. Moist environments in the kitchen and bathroom may promote mold growth. Ventilation is key to keep mold at bay.

Tobacco smoke

Thirdhand smoke, or THS, may be unfamiliar to many people. A 2011 report published in Environmental Health Perspectives says THS is an invisible combination of gases and particles that can cling to clothing, cushions, carpeting, and other materials long after secondhand smoke has cleared from a room. Studies have indicated that residual nicotine levels can be found in house dust where people smoke or once smoked. Studies have indicated that smoke compounds can adsorb onto surfaces and then desorb back into air over time.

Keeping tobacco smoke out of a home can improve indoor air quality and personal health.

VOCs

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are gases released from commonly used products. These can include paints and varnishes, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, new furniture, and new carpet. People with asthma may find that VOCs can trigger attacks. Airing out items, reducing usage of products that are heavily scented and choosing low- or no-VOC products can help. Making cleaning products from baking soda, vinegar and liquid oil soap also can keep indoor air quality high.

Homeowners who plan to renovate their homes can consider using the appropriate specifications for HVAC systems to promote good indoor air, as well as address any other potential problems that may be compromising indoor air quality.

Source: Metro News Service

Winter preparations: Tips for protecting your home from winter damage

Winter home2

Freezing temperatures, ice, snow and wind can cause severe damage to your home and property. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, here are some areas to evaluate to help protect your home:

Build-up of ice and snow on your roof

Ice dams occur when heat from a house escapes the attic and warms the roof. Snow on the roof melts and then refreezes, causing a ridge of ice to form and trap water on the roof. This water can leak into the home, causing major damage. Safeguard your roof by:

  • Thoroughly cleaning gutters in the spring and late fall. Clogged gutters may allow ice to form and back up under the roofline.
  • Making sure proper attic insulation is in place, keeping your house warm, but your attic cool – reducing snow melt on the roof.
  • Ensuring continuous ventilation of attic air, which should be only 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside.
  • Make sure heavy ice and snow build-up on your roof is removed. This can cause seepage or even a collapse. If snow accumulation is significant, hire a professional to “shovel” the roof.

Plumbing inside and outside

Plumbing located within exterior walls or unheated crawl spaces is most vulnerable to freezing or bursting. Protect your pipes by:

  • Making sure all interior pipes are insulated or have wall insulation around them, especially in vulnerable areas such as attics, crawl spaces and along outside walls.
  • Using weather-resistant insulation to protect exterior pipes.
  • Making sure cabinet doors under sinks are kept open during a heavy freeze to allow heat to circulate around pipes.
  • Hiring a professional to winterize the outdoor sprinkler system and remove all residual water, which can freeze and cause pipes to burst.
  • Disconnecting exterior hoses from their faucets and install frost-free hoses and hose bibs.

Fireplaces, furnaces and heating systems

Improper use or poor maintenance of heating systems can cause fire, puff-backs and smoke damage. Wood burning fireplaces and stoves are among the worst culprits when it comes to winter house fires. Follow these fire preventive measures:

  • Clean chimneys and flues on fireplaces and stoves annually.
  • Use a fire screen to control flying embers and burn only seasoned hardwood to reduce the potential for creosote buildup. Place ashes in a metal container and remove from the house immediately. Never put ashes in or near the trash.
  • Service furnaces and boilers at least once a year.
  • Keep portable space heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable objects, such as window treatments, furniture and bedding. Do not use extension cords to power the unit.

Emergency access

Severe weather could impact access to your home in the event of a fire, medical or other emergency. Take these measures before a winter storm to ensure fast and easy access:

  • Make sure your house number is clearly marked in a conspicuous area at the front of the home.
  • Contract a snow removal service that guarantees removing the snow from your driveway after every six inches of accumulation.
  • Place a large marker near a fire hydrant. Clear away surrounding snow.

Source: Chubb Insurance

How to communicate with loved ones after a disaster

Mobile electronic devices charging batteries.

After a disaster, it can often be difficult to communicate with loved ones. Hurricanes, tornadoes and other emergencies may cause power outages or overwhelm cellular services, sometimes making normal lines of communication nearly impossible.

Here are some tips to help communicate with your family in an emergency:

Before a disaster strikes

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers suggestions on how to prepare to communicate before a disaster even strikes:

Keep a non-cordless phone at home

If you have a traditional landline at home — one that isn’t Internet-based — make sure you have at least one corded phone connected. If there’s a power outage, your cordless model, which requires electricity, may not work.

Keep car chargers handy

Get in the habit of keeping your cellphone and laptop fully charged and have a car charger available in the event of a power outage. Consider buying additional batteries and solar or hand-powered chargers for your devices.

Create a communication plan

Because you and your loved ones may be separated when disaster strikes, make sure to develop a communication plan that’s specific to your family. The website www.ready.gov recommends choosing an emergency meeting place that’s in your neighborhood, and one that’s out of your neighborhood. Your plan should also detail how you will contact each other. For instance, designate an out-of-town contact for everyone to notify that they’re safe, or set an “on air” time where you’ll each power up your phones and call or text with your status.

During and after a disaster

There are also some steps you can take to improve the likelihood of communicating successfully with loves ones during a disaster and its immediate aftermath:

Text and use social media

Cell service can become congested during an emergency. Instead, try text messaging or emailing, which, the FCC says, are services that are less likely to experience network congestion. Also, consider posting your status on social media or registering on the American Red Cross’ Safe and Well website, so that loved ones who may be searching for you know that you’re OK.

Forward your home phone

If you have a landline and call-forwarding at home, the FCC suggests forwarding your home phone number to your cellphone if you’ll be away, or if conditions warrant an evacuation.

Conserve your phone’s battery life

You can extend the life of your cellphone battery charge by reducing the brightness of your screen, turning off Wi-Fi, closing apps that aren’t critical and putting your phone in airplane mode.

Additionally, if you’re able to make a call, consider updating your voicemail message so that, even if inbound calls go to voicemail, you’re able to offer loved ones an update on your well-being.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Follow these tips for a safe Halloween

halloween kids

Halloween may be a night of fun and fright, but it does require extra caution when it comes to keeping your little monsters safe. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “on average, twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to any other day of the year, and more than 70 percent of accidents occur away from an intersection or crosswalk.”

Follow these Halloween safety tips to help avoid common accidents and dangers.

Trick-or-treating safety tips

1. Provide adult supervision
Trick or treat can be safer – not to mention more fun – when done in groups, and adult supervision is essential. Get together with other adults and make an evening of it. Bring cellphones for quick pictures and emergencies but leave them in your pockets to avoid getting distracted.

2. Stay on the sidewalks
The thrill of the holiday often factors into accidents as excited kids rush from door to door. Keep children on the sidewalks, and shepherd them carefully when they need to cross the road. In areas without sidewalks, walk on the far edge of the road, facing traffic.

3. Carefully check candy
Check candy for choking hazards like gum and hard candies. Throw away any candy that is not sealed with a wrapper and avoid homemade treats received from strangers.

Costume safety tips

4. Choose bright, visible costumes
When selecting a costume, opt for the bright-colored outfits and add a touch of reflective tape to the material. Stick some reflective tape on their trick-or-treat bags as well so they can be easily spotted by motorists. Lastly, don’t forget to make sure they’re equipped with a flashlight or glow stick – must-have accessories for any costume.

5. Make sure costumes are well-fitted and safe
Being visible isn’t the only safety consideration for a costume. The right fit is just as important. Here’s some advice on keeping your child’s ensemble safe and secure:
Prevent accidental tripping or entanglement by making sure costumes aren’t too big or long enough to drag on the ground. Avoid masks that block vision. If your child wears one – it should have large eye, nose and mouth openings. You can also opt for makeup or face paint as an alternative. Choose costumes, wigs and accessories that indicate they are flame resistant.Make sure accessories such as swords, canes, or sticks are not sharp or too long

6. Makeup safety
If makeup is a part of your child’s Halloween costume plans, make sure it is non-toxic and test it on a small area first. Before your child goes to bed, make sure to remove all makeup.

Home safety tips

7. Jack-o-lantern safety
Young children can paint or color their pumpkins instead of carving. Or have them draw a face with markers and an adult can do the carving. Use colorful glow sticks inside your Jack-o-lanterns instead of candles to prevent burns.

8. Home decoration safety
If you’re turning your home into a haunted house, keep safety in mind: make sure steps, sidewalks, porches and paths are well-lit and free of decorations and holiday props. Keep decorations away from fireplaces and candles.

Source: Nationwide Insurance

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