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The latest in MyAlarmCenter news.

Back to School Campus Safety Tips for College Students

by AmyAugust 26, 2014

8.26

It’s back to school time for millions of American college students. All of us at America’s best home security company want college students safe and sound this school year.

The major safety risk faced by college students are property crimes. More than 80% of all college campus crimes are property crimes. It’s extremely important for students to take note of what they own and protect it accordingly.

Here are some more important safety tips for students to help prevent campus crime:

• Make a list of your valuables, including make, model and serial number. Make a video record of what you have.

• Mark your valuables. Use an electric engraver to permanently mark your property and valuables.

• Use the best bike lock possible. A huge number of property thefts involve bikes. Secure the bike through the wheel and the frame. Register your bike with the appropriate University authority (most likely the security department).

• Always lock your car and your room/dorm room/apartment/home. Many thefts occur when students leave their door unlocked for even a few minutes. Most property crimes are crimes of opportunity. Keep things locked up to make it harder and less tempting for thieves.

• Have a fire escape plan. Always have two ways out of your residence.

• Don’t share your key with anyone, and re-key the doors when a roommate moves out or a key is lost or stolen.

• Share your schedule. Make sure parents, family and/or friends know your class and activities schedules. This creates a network of friends keep track of each other. Make sure your campus friends know how to reach your family and loved ones.

• Travel in groups of two or more. When moving through campus and at night in the campus community, travel in groups of two or more in well lit, high traffic areas. Don’t walk alone at night.

• Hide the valuables. Don’t leave your cash, wallet, checkbook, phone and other stuff in plain view. Don’t be a tempting target.

• Identify who is at the door before opening it. Know exactly who is there and what they want. If things don’t seem right, communicate through the door.

• Watch your status updates. And be careful with check-ins as well. Leaving information online about where you are at simply advertises your behaviors and locations to the world. If you wouldn’t give the information to a stranger, don’t put it online.

• Be careful when drinking. Never leave a drink unattended. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Watch your drink being prepared. Avoid drinks from open containers like punch bowls.

• Be part of the solution. Always report suspicious activity to campus police.

The federal government requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs keep and disclose information about crimes that occur on or near their campus. Get access to the most recent statistics at http://www.ope.ed.gov/security.

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More Companies Enter the Fray for the ‘Internet of Things’

by TammyAugust 21, 2014

8.21

Lots of big technology companies want to put computing and communications power into common everyday household devices.

It should come as no surprise that they can’t agree how to do it.

Some technology companies are banding together in an attempt to formulate technical ground rules for what has been termed the Internet of Things. Big companies like Intel, Dell, Samsung and Broadcom have formed a consortium to finalize these ground rules.

The problem is that others are pursuing similar goals. Qualcomm, Microsoft and Cisco have formed a group. Apple and Google haven’t yet forged an alliance but are involved in the issue in a big way.

The Internet of Things means adding computer chips and sensors to appliances, electronics, door locks, cars – just about anything you can imagine – so they can utilize and leverage wireless technologies via Wi-Fi. This would enable you to remotely manage things by smartphone or tablet.

Protocol standards are important to help devices identify each other and exchange messages.

Until there is a consensus on technology and protocols, the Internet of Things won’t be as popular as projected.

We’ll keep you posted on relevant developments as they happen.

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Easy Ways to Use Your Home Security System to Watch Your Kids

by CassieAugust 19, 2014

 8.19

What do your kids do when you aren’t home?

That’s a question many parents have asked themselves. Do they come home on time? Are they safe? Are they doing things they shouldn’t be doing?

That’s the challenge – you have no way of knowing what kids are doing unless you are monitoring them!

Using Home Security to Monitor Your Kids

Most home security systems are equipped with features that allow you to monitor and even view your kid’s behaviors.

Your home alarm system can be used to alert you if your kids don’t get home on time. It can even provide you with a daily record of what time your kids got home!

Kid cams are another great way to help you monitor your kids.

Kid Cams

Using security cameras in conjunction with your home security alarm system offers you many advantages. A prime one is the ability to view what’s happening with your kids from any web enabled device like smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Indoor cameras are great for viewing large rooms and hallways. Most work well in the dark. Pan and tilt cameras allow you to maneuver them for better viewing and greater viewing ranges. Outdoor security cameras withstand the weather and are great for viewing what’s happening in the backyard, front yard, by the garage and by the pool.

Most kid camera systems allow you to view what’s happening in real time in your home. Many will even alert you when motion is detected within a protected area, and most will send you video clips so you can see what’s going on in your home.

A simple free mobile app makes viewing easy from your smartphone or tablet.

Kid Proof

Although you may enjoy the benefits of monitoring your kid’s behaviors, your child may not feel that way.

That’s why most home security and kid camera systems are tamper resistant. And should your child disable the system, your alarm company can be notified so corrective actions can be taken.

With many parents working and kids being left unattended at home, using your home security system to monitor the behavior and safety of children makes lots of sense. Contact My Alarm Center for more information.

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Here’s Why You Should Always Secure Your Home Wi-Fi Network

by TammyAugust 15, 2014

8.14

If you have or plan on installing a Wi-Fi network in your home, then it is imperative that you secure your network.

When you install a router to create a wireless network in your home, you have the choice of securing access to the network with a password, or allowing people to use the network freely without password requirements for access.

Lots of people see little harm in leaving their network unprotected. They either don’t see the potential danger, feel their neighbors have their own network and won’t use theirs, or they live in remote areas and don’t feel a threat.

Here’s the problem with having an unsecured network: you may be legally liable for activity that happens on the network.

Imagine someone accessing child pornography through your network. Or illegally downloading music files. Or buying drugs from online dealers.  All of these things could potentially cause you a visit from local police or the FBI. That means all of your files could be searched. Your computer could be seized. Your home could be subject to an exhaustive inspection.

Illegal activity across the network is only one worry. An even bigger concern may be the data hackers can gain by accessing your unsecured network.

Hackers can enter your unsecured network and gain access to your email, instant messaging, and computer data. They can learn everything about your life that you have on your computer.

Hackers can also use unsecured networks to send SPAM. They can also launch virus attacks. They do this because it becomes extremely difficult to track illicit activities to the source.

Stay safe. Secure your home wireless Wi-Fi network!

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What To Do If You’re Home When An Intruder Breaks In

by AmyAugust 12, 2014

8.12

Experiencing a home break-in is bad enough. What’s worse is being home when the break-in occurs.

If you’re home when a break-in happens, your safety and the safety of your loved ones is of prime importance.

Like most things in life, your best bet to stay safe during a home break-in is to plan ahead. Be aware of possible escape routes because your best bet if dealing with an intruder is to leave the home safely.

If you hear an intruder…

  • Leave the home if you can and go to a neighbor’s quickly to summon help.
  • If you can’t leave your home, go into a room and lock the door. If your home security system was armed and the alarm has sounded, stay quiet and know that help is on the way. If not, quietly call 9-1-1 to get the police. Don’t hang up the phone, leave the line open so the dispatcher can hear what’s happening at your home.
  • Be quiet and listen. How many intruders are there and are they making their way towards you?

If you encounter an intruder…

  • Remain calm and cooperative. Studies show that you are most susceptible to personal injury within the first 30 seconds of the encounter.
  • Avoid direct eye contact. Speak in a calm, normal tone of voice.
  • Tell the intruder you will cooperate. Raise your hands to shoulder level. You’ll appear cooperative yet still have your hands in a defensive position.
  • It’s safer to flee than fight. Only go on the offensive with the intruder if there is no other option.

The best way to prevent trouble with an intruder is to take steps to prevent a break-in. Lock your doors. Make sure door jams are steel. Use steel-covered solid wood doors with a minimum thickness of 1.75 inches. Publicize the fact you have a home security system and always keep your system armed.

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2 Things You Need to Know Before Leaving Your Pet at the Kennel

by CassieAugust 7, 2014

8.7

If you have a pet that you occasionally need to board at a kennel, then please take two minutes to read this blog post.

On June 20, 2014, 20 dogs at a pet boarding facility in Gilbert, AZ. (a suburb of Phoenix) died of heat exhaustion after the air conditioning stopped working in the area of the facility housing the dogs. At the time this blog post was written, the incident is still under investigation by the Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff’s Office.

This tragedy may have easily been avoided if the pet-boarding facility had simply installed temperature sensors, power sensors and/or camera surveillance in the area where the dogs were kept.

Temperature and power sensors notify a 24 hour alarm monitoring center if the power goes out, or if the temperature gets to unacceptable levels. The alarm monitoring center can then take appropriate action to remedy the situation.

Most of you are familiar with video cameras. They observe activity 24 hours a day in a defined area. Pet boarding facility owners could easily view what’s happening at their facility anytime on their smartphone, tablet, laptop or any web enabled device. These facilities could also allow for live steaming of the video to their website (it’s easy and doesn’t cost them any money to do if they have the cameras). That means pet owners could look in on their loved ones at any time, day or night!

Most pet boarding facilities are not staffed with people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most are closed at night. Most are closed on holidays. That’s why there is such a need for temperature and power sensors, along with camera surveillance capabilities, at all pet – boarding facilities.

Next time you need a boarding facility for your pet, use a place that really has pet safety in mind. Ask about temperature and power monitoring and find out if they have camera surveillance systems. Your 4-legged loved one will be glad you did.

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How Burglars Determine Which Homes to Rob

by DerekAugust 5, 2014

8.5

Did you ever wonder why one home is broken into and the one right next to it is spared?

It’s probably more than good luck or circumstance.

Experts interviewing burglars determined that there are 3 prime reasons a burglar targets one home over another:

• Proximity to others – time and again burglars said the close proximity of others determined their targets. The amounts of traffic near the home and on the road of the home are considered. If the home looks occupied, most burglars said they’d pick another target.

• Signs of security – burglars looked for dogs, outdoor cameras, and security signs to gauge how well a home was protected. The more protection the home exhibited, the less likely the home was to be targeted.

• Alarm system – About 60% of burglars in a survey conducted by the University of North Carolina Charlotte said they’d pick another target if a home had an alarm system. A whopping 83% said they try to determine if a home had a security system before attempting a break-in.

WSOC-TV in Charlotte did a nice investigative report on the motivations of home burglars. See their report here.

My Alarm Center has tips to improve your home security. We can also help you with home security systems, home automation systems and home camera security systems. Let us know how we can help to keep you, your loved ones and property safe.

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How to Keep Your Smartphone Safe

by DerekJuly 29, 2014

7.29

Have you ever looked around and not been able to find your smartphone? The feeling of panic that overtakes us is not a good feeling.

If you are like most Americans your smartphone has quickly become an important tool in your everyday living. And with more than 100 smartphones stolen every minute in this country, smartphone security is of prime importance.

Here are our tips for keeping your smartphone safe:

  • Use passwords. Passwords can prevent your phone from being used when it is stolen, misplaced or left unattended. There are two types of passwords you’ll need.  A screen lock is a password that is necessary to use your phone. You’ll also need a SIM card lock in the form of a PIN number. This SIM password is required to access a network, and prevents thieves from simply removing your SIM card and using it on another phone.
  • Guard your data. Even though your phone may have password protection, thieves can retrieve your data by connecting your phone to computers or removing a microSD card. Use free software to encrypt files and folders. This means a code must be entered before a file can be viewed or copied.
  • Be careful with wireless networks. Anything that sends data via the airwaves is a security concern and smartphones are no exception. Always switch off the wireless connection when you are not using it. This makes sure people can’t connect to your device without you knowing about it. Make sure your phone is not configured to automatically find a network (make it a manual process and control access through your “settings” features).
  • Watch the apps. Only download apps from established parties through known sources. Pay attention to the information apps want to access and know that if an app can easily access it, so can thieves.
  • Bluetooth. Bluetooth is less risky due to its short range for access.  Set the default Bluetooth configuration to “non-discoverable.” That means bad guys searching for potential targets won’t see you pop up on their lists.  Any unknown requests to “pair” or connect your device should be ignored.

Follow these tips and you’ll have taken prudent steps to keep your smartphone and its information safe and secure.

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10 Summer Safety Tips for Kids

by TammyJuly 24, 2014

7.24

School is out and that means so are children.

Summertime is outdoor playtime for most kids. And to make sure outdoor playtime is safe time for your children, we recommend you to take these summer safety tips for kids:

  1. Let your kids know where they can play | Define the safe play areas for your kids. Make sure they understand not to play in the streets. For younger kids, restrict their play areas to your yard, and expand their safe play areas with age.
  1. Examine play areas | Make sure kids avoid dangerous areas filled with debris, litter, broken concrete and storage. Examine play areas to make sure there is no broken glass on the ground, slippery surfaces, ant hills, wasp nests or other hazards in the area.
  1. Teach them to avoid strangers | Your children should not speak with strangers or go anywhere with them. Teach them to run away and go inside when approached by strangers.
  1. Use the buddy system | Teach kids to always stay with a friend. This applies to when they are playing outside or swimming. Remind kids to stay with their friends or their group.
  1. Keep them well hydrated | Kids expend lots of energy and lose lots of fluids when playing during the summer. Make sure your kids keep bottled water handy and that they take sips of water throughout the day.
  1. Inspect playground apparatus | Make sure outdoor play sets are in good order and repair. Tighten bolts, screws and nuts. Check for rust and remove it. Make sure there is no cracked or splintered wood.
  1. Use helmets | Biking, skateboarding, roller skating or even riding on a scooter are all fun things kids should wear helmets while doing. The helmet should fit well and be free of cracks and defects.
  1. Lock the pool | Pools should have fencing around it with locked gates. Keep access to the pool out of reach of your children. Even teenagers should have adult supervision while swimming.
  1. Sunscreen | Protect your kids against prolonged exposure to the sun. Use your doctor-approved sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 or higher.
  2. Use insect repellant | Some states have mosquitos bigger than birds. Outdoor activity in some areas makes insect repellant a necessity. Always check kids for ticks when they’ve been playing in wooded areas. Phoenix cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson published a great list of natural remedies for bug bites. Find it here.

What are your favorite safety practices for your children? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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Nextdoor: A Great Way to Connect With Your Neighbors

by TammyJuly 22, 2014

7.22

There’s a great online resource connecting people, neighbors and communities to make them safer places to live.

This private social network is free and it is currently active in more than 36,000 neighborhoods across the country.

Nextdoor provides an easy way to keep up with everything that’s happening in your neighborhood. It’s a great way for you and your neighbors to talk online. The goal is to use technology to make neighborhoods safer and better.

People use Nextdoor to communicate about break-ins, find a plumber, find a lost pet or announce a garage sale. Learn more about Nextdoor.

See if your neighborhood is listed on Nextdoor. We urge you to get involved today!

My Alarm Center is not affiliated with Nextdoor in any way. We do share a similar vision of making our homes and communities safer places to live.

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7 Safety Tips When Your Home Is For Sale

June 5, 2014

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