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Stranger Danger: 5 Essential Tips for Parents

“Don’t talk to strangers.”

You’ve certainly heard those words before.

But ‘stranger danger’ can often be misleading, as in many cases, children are taught to think of strangers as frightening and creepy people. But in reality, statistics show that children are at more risk of molestation, abduction and abuse by someone they know. Furthermore, this overgeneralization of strangers has caused some children to falsely believe that kind looking and nicely dressed men and women never qualify as dangerous.

As a parent, it’s your responsibility to explain the concept of stranger danger to your children in a rational and effective way. To help you prepare, take a few minutes to read over the following tips:

Correctly define ‘stranger’

Let’s back up and remind ourselves that strangers are often misrepresented to children as scary looking. While children shouldn’t fear everyone they see, you should make it clear that anybody that they do not know qualifies as a stranger – regardless of gender, age and appearance.

Teach your child to trust their instincts

Many children are taught to be obedient and trusting of all adults, regardless of the situation. Unfortunately, this can make them particularly vulnerable in situations when they are approached by people they don’t know. Consequently, you should make sure your child understands that they will not get in trouble for disobeying an adult if they feel they are in danger. Furthermore, always teach your kids to trust their instincts and use common sense in uncomfortable situations.

Encourage use of the buddy system

Teach your kids about safety in numbers and the buddy system. Encourage your son or daughter to play and travel in groups. Being alone makes them a much more attractive target for criminals. Additionally, instruct them to stay in places that are well lit and out in the open.

Come up with a secret code word

It’s a good idea to come up with a secret family code word that only you, your child and trusted friends and family members know. Tell your son or daughter that if anyone tries to pick them up or take them somewhere, that person must tell them the code word first. If they are unable to do so, they should avoid going anywhere with that individual.

Invest in an alarm system

While children should know to never reveal their name or address to someone they don’t know, homes – especially ones with children – should be equipped with alarm systems as a last line of defense. Today’s security systems are not only extremely effective, but also affordable for most homeowners. Many residential security companies will even help you customize your own home protection package to suit your budget and lifestyle.

Campfire Safety Tips for Scouts

As a boy scout, it’s essential to know how to create a fire. But it’s equally important to know how use fire responsibly. The following tips will help you learn how to build, maintain and extinguish a fire safely:

Choosing the proper location

Whether you’re in the wilderness or at a campsite with preexisting fire pits, it’s imperative that you choose a suitable location to build your fire. Make sure to pick up all ignitable debris within a 10-foot radius. Additionally, there should be no overhanging branches close to the site. This way, you can help minimize the chance that the fire spreads.

Building and maintaining the fire

Once you’re ready to build your fire, you should gather tinder (dry leaves, grass, vegetation), kindling (small twigs and sticks) and fuel (larger pieces of wood). Once you’ve gathered the proper materials, scatter a few piles of tinder in the center of your fire bed. Then, add the kindling using the teepee, cross, lean-to or log cabin method.

1. Teepee – Lay the kindling on top of the tinder as if you’re forming a tent or teepee.
2. Cross – Crisscross the kindling on top of the tinder.
3. Lean-to – Stick a long piece of kindling into the ground at around a 30-degree angle over the tinder. Then, lay smaller pieces of kindling against the big piece.
4. Log cabin – Enclose your tinder pile with kindling, stacking them at 90-degree angles as if you’re playing Lincoln Logs.

Once you’ve added the kindling using one of these methods, ignite the kindling with a match or lighter. Add more tinder as the fire grows and blow at the base of the fire to give it the necessary oxygen. Remember to keep the flames small and under control. Always keep a shovel/water nearby in case you need to put out the fire quickly. Most importantly, you should never leave a burning campfire unattended – even for just a few minutes.

Extinguishing the fire

You may be surprised at how long it takes to thoroughly extinguish a fire. Consequently, plan on giving yourself at least 20 minutes to do so. First, allow the firewood to burn down to ash. Then, sprinkle as much water as you need to completely smother any remaining burning embers. At the same time, use a shovel to stir and scrape the ashes to make sure everything gets wet. Continue this process until you can no longer hear a simmering sound or see any steam coming from the fire pit. Once your fire is completely extinguished, scoop up the ashes and spread them around the campsite. This way, you won’t leave the next campers with a pit full of old ashes.

Home fire safety

You can also apply your knowledge of outdoor fire safety to help protect your home. While taking the proper safety measures will greatly reduce the risk of home fires, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. For that reason, you should have at least one working smoke alarm installed on every level of your home. Most residential security companies, such as ADT, offer smoke detectors as part of a total home safety package. Make sure to test them at least once per year to make sure they are working properly.

Facecrook: Burglars Using Social Media to Plan Crimes

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social media sites are some of the greatest innovations in recent history. They give us an interactive platform to communicate with friends and family, network with other like-minded professionals and make social connections with people on the other side of the planet.

However, there will always be those evildoers who exploit powerful new innovations for malicious purposes. In this case, burglars are among the many miscreants who do an injustice to social media.

How do they do it?

In the social media culture that we live in, people feel obligated to share everyday experiences as they happen. Although this trend is inherently harmless, ambitious criminals are beginning to use status updates, tweets and other digital announcements to monitor people’s whereabouts. By doing so, they can track when homeowners are away and plan break-ins at the most vulnerable times.

It may be easier than you think for a determined crook to connect the dots between your Facebook profile and home address. In many instances, social media profiles feature your full name, location, email address and other clues that snooping cybercriminals can use to find out where you live.

Before you hit send, think again

Fortunately, there is a simple remedy for this alarming trend – good judgment.

While that may sound simple, the reality is that many people (particularly younger generations) are unaware of the issue, and, in many cases, simply hooked on social media.

That’s why it’s important to spread awareness about this issue as much as possible. Users of Facebook, Twitter and other social media services should be encouraged to avoid sharing real-time information about their whereabouts, especially if they are planning on being away from home for an extended amount of time.

While it may be hard for some to resist expressing themselves to their digital friends and followers, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Adjust your privacy settings

Facebook recently rolled out a number of changes to simplify its privacy settings, so now is a good time to learn how to use and adjust them. You can access your privacy settings on the top menu bar.

Invest in a monitored home security system

You should also consider investing in a monitored home security system if you don’t already have one installed. Monitored protection, which is affordable for most people, enables a team of trained professionals to keep an eye on your home around the clock – even when you’re not there.

Smart Landscaping Can Reduce Risk of Burglary

Burglaries aren’t crimes of chance, but rather crimes of opportunity. Before attempting a break-in, intruders will typically canvas a neighborhood in search of homes that are easy to get in, take what they want and get out – without being noticed.

So, what makes a home an attractive target?

It all starts with your yard.

Intruders will look for homes that have tall bushes, shrubs and trees. An unkempt lawn not only implies that nobody is home, but also makes it easier for a thief to sneak around undetected. Additionally, these criminals will look for high privacy fences or gates, which can conceal them from neighbors or passersby.

Here are a few things you can do to make it more difficult for a burglar to break into your home:

    • Plant thorny, hostile vegetation below first-floor windows and fences.
    • Trim tall bushes, shrubs and trees to prevent intruders from using them as cover.
    • Make sure you store all ladders and tools in a secure location – not inside a garden shed. Burglars will use them to help break into your home.
    • Keep your home well-lit at nighttime so would-be intruders are unable to move around your property surreptitiously. You can buy motion-activated floodlights at your local Lowes or Home Depot for around $20-$30.
    • Consider laying noise-making gravel around your home. This gravel will make a crunching noise when walked on, which will not only alert you and your neighbors when someone is outside your home, but also deter intruders who want to move around unnoticed.

Other things to keep in mind

    • Don’t leave toys out on the lawn for extended periods of time. When thieves see toys or playground equipment outside, they know kids live there, and, in turn, know a mother most likely lives there too. What does this all add up to? Jewelry!
    • Close your garage door when you leave your home. Nothing screams “Nobody’s here!” more than a vacant garage.
    • Don’t hide keys under doormats, potted plants or other obvious locations. These are the first places that burglars will look. If you must hide a key, put it in an inconspicuous place, or, better yet, give it to a trustworthy neighbor.
    • If you don’t already have one, you should strongly consider investing in a home security system. This will be your best defense against not only burglary, but a wide range of other threats, as well. There are several home security providers – such as ADT – that offer around-the-clock monitored protection for a very modest price.

The 12 Crimes of Christmas

This time of year is about spreading the holiday cheer and spending time with the people you love most. For criminals, however, the holidays present an opportunity to take advantage of the giving spirit by cheating, lying and stealing. For this reason, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself this holiday season.

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The 12 Crimes of Christmas

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The Coolest Security Systems in Film

The beauty of cinema is that it has virtually limitless possibilities. Our minds are freed from the shackles of reality, allowing us to create new worlds and civilizations that exist solely in the deepest depths of our imaginations.

Over the years, there have been some pretty cool security systems in the movies, usually because the technology is way more advanced than what actually exists. Here are some of the best:

Panic Room

There is perhaps no film that embodies the home security genre better than Panic Room. The 2002 thriller stars Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart as a mother and daughter who lock themselves in a high-tech, fortified room during a break-in. The panic room is protected by a four-inch-thick steel door on all sides, an elaborate security system, multiple surveillance cameras and a separate phone line.

Minority Report

Will we ever be able to stop crime before it happens? The 2002 sci-fi classic Minority Report explores that possibility. Tom Cruise shines as Captain John Anderton, who works as the Chief of the Department of PreCrime in Washington, D.C. in the year 2054. PreCrime works by using three “precogs,” mutated humans with psychic abilities, to stop murders before they occur. But when Anderton is framed for a murder he did not commit, the inevitable legal and ethical issues with this kind of approach are brought to light. Can a person really be charged for a crime before they commit it?

Ocean’s Eleven

Ocean’s Eleven, a 2001 remake of the 1960 Rat Pack film of the same name, is one of the best heist movies of all-time. The film features an incredible ensemble cast of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy García and Julia Roberts, but an even more impressive robbery. Danny Ocean his rag-tag band of criminals cleverly design a plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously, which includes bypassing one a security system, that, as Ocean puts it, “rivals most nuclear missile silos.” To claim their $150 million prize, the team must overcome numerous security barriers, ranging from fingerprint identification and motion sensors to voice detection and armed guards.

Resident Evil

Whether it’s guarding a prized jewel or protecting an ancient artifact, laser sensors have been a hallmark in film over the years. There is perhaps no film that uses lasers better than the 2002 horror film Resident Evil. When a thief steals the genetically engineered T-virus and contaminates the Hive, a genetic research facility owned by the Umbrella Corporation, the impressive security system kicks in. In order to prevent the virus from escaping, the Hive’s artificial intelligence, a holographic avatar called the Red Queen, seals down the facility and terminates everyone inside using a high-intensity laser grid.

Essential Thanksgiving Kitchen Safety Tips

Thanksgiving is a time for family to gather together over a table of gravy-drenched goodness and give thanks to all life’s blessings. With all the cooking that takes to prepare such an extravagant feast, there is an also an increased risk for fires during on Thanksgiving. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Thanksgiving Day has more than twice the amount of home cooking fires than an average day. To make sure you stay safe on Turkey Day, please review the following essential kitchen safety tips:

Fire Safety Tips

  • When you’re cooking, do not, under any circumstances, leave food cooking unattended. If you have to leave the kitchen – even if it’s just for a few minutes – make sure to turn off the stove.
  • Turn the handles of pots, pans, skillets and other bakeware inward to avoid any accidents.
  • As a last line of defense, every home should always have functional smoke alarms. You should check your detectors at least once per month to verify that they are working properly. You can purchase smoke alarms as part of a total home security package from a company like ADT.
  • Since loose-fitting clothing tends to catch fire more easily, it’s a good idea to wear short or close-fitting sleeves when cooking.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended or near anything that might catch fire. You should also keep candles out of the reach of young children and pets.
  • Set timers to monitor turkey and other food that require extended cooking times.

Other Safety Tips

  • Keep young children away from the stove and hot food/liquid. Steam or splashing has the potential to cause severe burns.
  • Keep knives and any other sharp objects out of the reach of young children.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over anything.
  • Make sure there aren’t any electric cords hanging off the counter.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

How to Lower Your Home Insurance Premiums

Raise your deductible

Your deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket before the insurance carrier begins to cover a claim. This number has a significant impact on the amount you will pay for monthly premiums. The higher you set your deductible, the less you will have pay for insurance. However, raising your deductible also means you’ll have to pay more in the event of a loss. For this reason, you should never set your deductible at a sum that you can’t afford to pay if a claim is filed.

Upgrade your home

Most home insurance companies will give you a discount for making your home more resistant to natural disasters, burglary, fire and other potential hazards. The best way to do this is by investing in a home security system. ADT offers around-the-clock monitored protection for a pretty reasonable price. Other simple upgrades, such as purchasing storm shutters and adding an automatic sprinkler system, can also net you savings on your premiums.

Explore all your options

When you’re shopping for home insurance, make sure to cast a wide net. You’ll quickly realize that not all providers are cut from the same cloth. The cost for identical coverage can vary significantly between insurers. You can do this pretty easily by using the vast array of online resources, or, you can enlist the help of an insurance broker, who, for a fee, can help you find the best policy.

Purchase home and auto policies with one carrier

Purchasing your home and auto insurance policies with the same company can net you up to a 15% discount on your monthly premiums. Before you take this step, however, you should verify that bundling your insurance plans with one carrier is cheaper than purchasing them separately.

Build and maintain good credit

Your credit score is a number that indicates how likely you are to repay your debts. Essentially, it represents your financial reputation. Insurance companies use this information because policyholders with lower credit scores are not only less likely to pay their premiums on time, but also more likely to file a claim. Consequently, customers with lower creditworthiness are riskier to insure, which ultimately leads to higher rates for those individuals.

Make sure to ask your agent about additional ways to save.

Best Place to Mount a Security System Keypad

Whether you’re installing your own home security system in a major DIY overhaul project or you’ve ordered a system from a professional provider, one of the most important things to consider is where you should put the keypad.

What does the keypad do

The keypad is considered the “brain” of a home security system and the main piece of equipment you’ll use to control your system. Some systems come with a wireless keychain, or key fob, which gives you the ability to perform many of the same functions you can perform on the digital keypad. These include:

  • Arm – arm your system with or without enabling the motion detector
  • Disarm – disable your system when you’re home so you can walk around without worrying about setting off a false alarm
  • Panic – call for help just by pressing a button

Placement is key

The best place to mount your digital keypad is somewhere that’s convenient for you to get to. Many people choose an area like near a main entryway door that they use – either the front door or the door leading into the garage.

A central location in the house – like a main hallway or foyer – may also be a good place to mount it.

Some homeowners also choose to install a second keypad, usually in the master bedroom. This way, you can have access to your system without having to walk all the way to the centrally-located keypad when you’re in your bedroom about to go to sleep at night. Or, worst case scenario – if you need to get to a keypad during an emergency and aren’t close to one, you’ll have another one close by.

Other benefits of this setup are that you can see what time people are coming in and going out of your house. For example, if you have teenagers, you can monitor what time they come home and make sure they make curfew by setting your entryway contacts to beep when a door they monitor is opened or closed. When you have a keypad in the bedroom, you’ll be notified of this activity immediately, but if your only keypad is in the hallway, you may not know what’s going on.

When all is said and done, deciding where to mount the keypad is essentially a personal preference. Do what makes sense and whatever will help you most easily manage your security system.

The Dangers of Space Heaters

Important fire safety tips for your home and family

As the fall and winter months chill the air and you and your loved ones cozy up to a fire, or maybe even an electric source of heat, it’s good to remember some safety tips so you don’t end up a cautionary tale.

  1. Read the instructions on your equipment and follow directions accordingly.
  2. Never leave a space heater on when no one is in the room or when you go to sleep. Leaving the device on unattended could result in an unexpected fire.
  3. Place heaters at least several feet from flammable items such as other appliances, chemicals, blankets and curtains.
  4. Never place gloves or clothing on portable heaters to dry them.
  5. Avoid using extension cords with space heaters.

Studies have shown that each year thousands of home fires are started from heaters. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 16 percent of all household fires in 2006 were a result of heating equipment. Sadly, some of these fires were fatal.

Types of heaters

Did you know that there are more than just electric space heaters? Propane and gas heaters are also available, but electric heaters are the most common, as they are the easiest to operate and the most widely available.

Many electric space heaters are equipped with automatic shutoffs so they don’t overheat.

Infrared heaters are another type of portable heater. Not only are they more energy efficient, they are also less of a fire hazard. Why? Because infrared heaters have internal heating elements that never get hot enough to ignite, which means they won’t pose a fire risk to your home.

You can find a variety of heaters online, at major retailers or at specialty stores. Always ask for instructions from the place you purchase the heater, although they should come in the box. And don’t choose a box that looks damaged or previously opened, as this could prove dangerous when you go to use the heater.

Other ways to protect against fire

In addition to having working smoke alarms in your home, home security system equipment may also help prevent such accidents from occurring.

ADT monitored home security systems feature fire monitoring and optional equipment such as smoke and heat sensors and carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is emitted by some heaters. It has an undetectable smell, and it is impossible to detect the presence of the gas without a carbon monoxide detector.

Following safety precautions and safe practices around your house when using space heaters will help make the cold months seem a little warmer and a lot safer.