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The latest in MyAlarmCenter news.

5 Traits of Excellent Home Security Companies

by CassieSeptember 25, 2014

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A home security company’s role covers a mix of protection, alarm supervision, customer service and empathy. To do these things well is no easy task, as many a consumer will attest who feel they’ve received less than stellar performance from their home alarm company.

 

As someone who has worked in the home security industry since 1983, I offer you the top five traits of outstanding home security companies:

 

1. Zero Mistake Mentality.

With security, there are no second chances. Excellent home security companies recognize that your home security system and alarm monitoring must work exactly as designed, each and every time it is needed. They use only the finest security equipment and procedures and hire the very best people to help protect you.

 

2. Passion.

Employees of the home security company must have a passion for home security and protecting people just like you. Passion drives them to excellence in each and everything they do. Spend some time talking to technicians and office personnel of a company. You’ll quickly be able to spot those disenchanted with their jobs or their profession.

 

3. Segment Specific Knowledge.

Excellent home security companies specialize in what they do. They spend time sharpening their knowledge and craft until they become home security system experts. They understand the latest in home security and home automation technology and apply it properly to bring the most benefit to you.

 

4. Community Involvement.

Outstanding security companies work hard to make the communities they work in safer places to live. They support community initiatives to cut crime and help residents. They are active participants in trade associations that promote home security best practices. If a home security company is not active in supporting its community or industry, don’t do business with them.

 

5. Commitment to Customers.

Sure, everyone talks about providing good customer service. Excellent companies actually do it. Check online reviews about the company. Look for testimonials on their website. Ask for a list of customers you can speak with about their service. Check with the Better Business Bureau and state licensing agencies.

 

When investing in a home security system, the company you choose is the most important decision you make. Select wisely, and look beyond the price to see the company protecting you and your family.

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4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Home Security

by AmySeptember 23, 2014

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There are very simple steps you can take to boost your home security, and the first one is understanding how you may be vulnerable.

To figure out where you are vulnerable, you have to assess your security needs and weaknesses. That means reviewing your behaviors, needs and present measures so you can formulate a security plan.

Less than 25% of all homes have a security system, and even less have a home security plan. To get a handle on your home security, follow these guidelines:

  1. Check the crime stats in your neighborhood. Location can play a role in crime levels. Check with your local police department for crime information in your neighborhood. Learn the types of crime being committed and determine your risk levels accordingly. You can also get information on how the crime level compares in your community with other cities from Sperling’s Best Places.
  1. Improve the locks on your doors and windows. Use deadbolt locks on all doors except sliding doors. Use high quality solid metal with no screws exposed on the exterior. Make sure the throw bolt is at least one inch long. Invest in special keyed locks for sliding doors and windows, which you can easily find at your local hardware store.
  1. Join a neighborhood watch group. These programs build strong neighborhoods. They reduce crime and help home values. Contact your local police department about joining or starting a neighborhood watch program in your area.
  1. Invest in a good home security system. We wrote about how burglars select which home to rob, and the evidence is overwhelming that they avoid attacking homes with a home security system. Investing in a monitored home security system can be your best move to boost home security. And with many systems being wireless and portable in nature, you can even take them with you should you move!

Little actions make big differences. Take these steps to boost your home security today!

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Should Police Officers Wear Body Cameras?

by DerekSeptember 18, 2014

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As a taxpayer, would you support buying body cameras to be worn by police officers to record everything that transpires between them and citizens?

Many communities are considering using body cameras, especially in light of the recent happenings in Ferguson, Missouri.

Body cameras are about the size of a pager and are commonly worn as part of an officer’s uniform. They may even be mounted on helmets or possibly on new products like Google Glass. They cost about $300 to $400 per camera.

The intent behind using these tamper-proof body cameras is to provide an objective record of an encounter between an officer and a citizen.

The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that Rialto, Calif., whose entire police force has the cameras, saw a reduction in the use of force by officers of 60%, and a whopping 88% decline in citizen complaints against police.

Many psychologists believe these declines can be attributed to a change in human behavior caused by people (both police and citizens) knowing that someone is watching them. They also believe there are less citizen complaints when there are video records of their behavior.

Most police departments equip their patrol vehicles with dashboard cameras, and have been doing so since the mid-1990s.

There are privacy concerns about using body cameras. In order to be fair, some people argue that the cameras would need to be turned on during every encounter, and not simply at the discretion of the officer.

Do you think police officers should wear body cameras? Share with us your opinion in the comments section below this post.

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Thank a Seattle Police Officer

by DerekSeptember 16, 2014

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Police work can be a tough and demanding job. Many times citizens underappreciate the effort put forth by employees of the Seattle Police Department.

All of us at My Alarm Center support the fine work done by the Seattle Police. That’s why we encourage Seattle citizens to use the online “thank you” form on the City of Seattle website. It’s your way to give thanks to the police department employees and their supervisors for a job well-done.

There are also other great safety resources available to you from the Seattle Police Department. Some of our favorites include:

Other Seattle Police Department Items of Interest include:

  • Precinct Phone Numbers:

North Precinct (206) 684-0794
South Precinct (206) 386-9180
East Precinct (206) 684-4370
West Precinct (206) 684-8996
Southwest Precinct (206) 615-1976

We encourage your complete support of the Seattle Police Department. Thank an officer for their good work today!

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5 Great Reasons to Contact Your Home Security Company

by TammySeptember 11, 2014

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Some people only think about their home security company when they install a security system and when the alarm activates.

That’s not enough.

You should know your home security company like you know your neighbors. They’re the ones working to keep you safe and it’s simply counterproductive to only interact with them when it’s time to pay your bill or in an emergency.

Here are five very good reasons to contact your security company:

  • You’re leaving on vacation. Make sure your home security company is properly prepared for your trip. Let them know how long you’ll be gone. Let them know if your house will be empty or if you’ll have a house sitter. Share with them any concerns you may have so they are fully prepared to do their best for you.
  • You are renovating your house. The smallest of home improvement projects can impact the way your security system works. Before installing new fixtures, cabinets, rooms or flooring, contact your home security company. They’ll assess the situation with you and, if necessary, most will send someone to your home for free to see if you need to modify your protection.
  • You need to update your emergency contact list. This list is kept on file by the alarm monitoring company so they know who to notify when you can’t be reached in an emergency. It’s important for your safety that this emergency contact list be accurate and up-to-date. We suggest contacting your home alarm monitoring company around Thanksgiving each year to ensure the accuracy of your information.
  • If you are moving. Any time you put your home up for sale, contact your home security company. Lots of false alarms are created by realtors showing homes for sale. Your home security company will review with you best practice tips to keep your home safe and secure while it’s being sold.
  • Anytime you have a question or concern. It’s perfectly O.K. to contact your home security company if you have questions. That’s what you pay them for and most companies would welcome your call. Make sure you are up-to-date using current home alarm technology. Ask about those home security camera systems you see everyone using on their smartphones. Use your home security company for what they are – your home security protection specialists.

Would you like more free tips about how to protect your home, yourself and your family? Then like My Alarm Center on Facebook. You can even leave us a message to simply say hello!

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20 School Bus Safety Tips for Parents and Children

by AmySeptember 10, 2014

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It’s back to school time in communities across America. That means more than 23 million children taking a bus to school.

The school bus transportation system is one of the largest in the country.  However, more than 17,000 school kids end up in emergency rooms each year due to school bus related accidents.

That’s why My Alarm Center offers these tips for parents and kids to reduce the likelihood of school bus accidents or accidents at the school bus stop:

1. Walk with your child to the bus stop. Wait with them until the bus arrives. Walk with your children until you feel they respond well in most situations.

2. Allow plenty of time to get to the bus stop. Avoid having to rush, as rushing can lead to injuries.

3. Don’t let kids listen to iPods or play handheld video games while walking to school or at the bus stop.  These items lead to distractions which could result in injury.

4. Children should never speak to strangers at the bus stop and should never enter the car of a stranger.  Children should head straight home if a stranger bothers them or tries to pick them up.

5. As the bus approaches, children should stand 3 giant steps away from the curb and wait to approach the bus until after it has come to a complete stop.

6. Make sure your kids use handrails when boarding and exiting the bus.

7. If kids drop things when boarding or exiting the bus, teach them to tell the bus driver first before attempting to retrieve the item. The goal is for the bus driver to see them and be aware of their activities before driving the bus.

8. Teach your children to go directly to a seat when boarding a bus and to sit facing forward for the entire ride. Remind them they must fasten seat belts if they are available.

9. Review all of the rules of the school district and bus driver to make sure your child understands them and complies with them.

10. Instruct your kids to keep the aisles clear at all times and not to play with the emergency exits.

11. Kids should talk quietly rather than yelling and screaming so the bus driver is not distracted.

12. Emphasize to your children to never throw things on the bus or out the windows.

13. Have the kids always stay seated when the bus is moving and make sure that they know to not put their head, feet, arms or hands out of the window.

14. Train your kids to always follow the instructions of the bus driver.

15. Children should never attempt to exit the bus until it comes to a complete stop.

16. If meeting your children at the bus stop after school, wait on the same side of the street where the child will be dropped off so they won’t have to cross the street alone.

17. Make sure your children know to never walk behind a bus (the driver may not see them).

18. If your children need to cross the street after leaving the bus, teach them to take 6 big steps in front of the bus, and then to make eye contact with the bus driver. Instruct them to cross when they know it is safe to do so.

19. Teach your kids to look both ways before crossing the street.

20 Have your children come straight home once they get off the bus so an adult knows they are safe and sound.

Keeping school kids safe on buses and at bus stops is important for all of us. If you have a safety tip we haven’t shared in this post, please leave it in the comments section below.

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How to Prevent Your Car from Being Stolen

by DerekSeptember 4, 2014

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 There were around 700,000 American cars and trucks stolen in 2013 and the number looks to be adding up to the same amount for 2014.  According to the FBI, a motor vehicle is stolen in the United States every 44 seconds.  Unfortunately a vast majority of these vehicles are never recovered. While most auto owners are insured, it can be a major hassle to be compensated by insurance companies, and having your vehicle stolen leaves owners with the emotional scar of becoming a victim to theft.  Some owners have a real connection with their prized rides and consider them to be part of the family. So how can you go about protecting your motor vehicle from amateur and professional thieves?  We have put together a list of great tips to ensure you are doing everything you can to ward off any would-be criminals.

  • Keep it Garaged: It is a known fact that vehicle villains look for cars that are easy targets.  This includes cars parked on the street or in a driveway.  If you have the ability, always park your car in your garage to add another barrier criminals will have to overcome to get access to your vehicle. You may even consider installing motion detector lights around your home, garage and driveway for yet another means of scaring off the bad guys.
  • Keep Your Car in Great Condition: You might think that car thieves target the nicest car on the block, but the opposite is actually true.  A well maintained car actually signals to carjackers that you care about your car which means you likely have taken the necessary steps to protect it.  It will often be assumed that you have an alarm and or a stolen vehicle recovery system.
  • Have a Visible Alarm Sticker and/or Alarm LED: Some sort of visual to let thieves know your car is protected is often a great deterrent.  Even if there is not an actual alarm installed, the statement that there is one is often enough to make the criminals move on.  Of course having an actual alarm is good protection as long as you remember to arm it.  Some alarm systems offer two way pagers that will alert you the instant your system is set off.  This type of system is certainly a little pricier than the average, but can really pay off if it helps you catch the criminals
  • Don’t Leave Valuables Out in the Open: Leaving valuables in plain sight like a wallet, purse, or expensive electronics might not get your entire car stolen, but it certainly makes it susceptible to a break in.  A quick smash and grab can cause a considerable amount of damage and once they are inside your car, amateur thieves might change their minds and decide to take your car for a joyride.
  • Park in a Safe, Well Lit, Populated Area: Avoid parking your car or truck in dimly lit or unpopulated areas.  Long-term parking lots should also be avoided if possible.   Try not to leave your vehicle unattended in bad neighborhoods or high crime areas.   While this last tip cannot always be avoided, try to trust your gut.  If it doesn’t feel right then try to look for an alternative place to park.
  • The Club: We have all seen the big red metal bar that locks across your steering wheel to stop it from turning.  Many of us have also seen instances where the car thieves simply cut through the steering wheel and slide it right off.  While it is fairly simple to overcome, the simple truth is that The Club works well in protecting your car against bad guys that forgot to bring a hack saw.  Even if they are prepared it is still easier to steal a vehicle without one.
  • Hidden Kill Switches: Hiding a switch that must be activated before your car will start is an amazing way to stop would-be car thieves.  Most car thieves are amateurs and do not possess the skill set to figure out how to override a kill switch system.  They may know how to hotwire your ignition, but if they are ignorant to where you have hidden a secondary switch, your vehicle isn’t going anywhere.  These can be installed with minimal tools and know-how or can be installed by professionals for a minimal charge relative to the cost of losing your car.  Some owners can take this even one step further and have a fuel system kill switch installed as well.
  • Common Sense: These last few tips are pretty much common sense, but believe it or not, are some of the main reasons thousands of vehicles are stolen each year.  Lock your doors and roll up your windows all the way.  Leaving easy access to your ride is like putting a sign on top that says “Steal Me.”  You should also never leave your car running unattended.  Too many times people have fallen victim to this.  They think “I am just running into the convenience store for a few seconds.”  Well, that is more than enough time for a thief to jump in and take off.  Lastly, do not hide an extra key anywhere on the outside of your automobile.  Criminals know the obvious places to look for these and believe us they will.

There are other steps you can take as well to help you recover your vehicle in the unfortunate event of it actually being illegally lifted.  Consider a paid subscription to a service like OnStar if your car has the ability to do so. There are also 3rd party GPS systems available for vehicles that don’t have this functionality built in.  These paid subscriptions have vehicle recovery systems available to help assist the authorities in recovering your automobile. If the city or town you live in offers LoJack coverage we highly recommend you take advantage of that.  LoJack has a one-time fee for the equipment and installation.  Police have special scanners that alert them to stolen vehicles in their area and allow them to track down the exact location of your stolen car or truck. It is our hope that following the tips we have gone over in this article will help you to protect your vehicle against theft!

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Join America’s Night Out Against Crime!

by AmySeptember 2, 2014

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My Alarm Center would like to invite you and your neighbors to celebrate “America’s Night out against Crime” on October 7, 2014.

Sponsored by National Association of Town Watch (NATW), the National Night Out promotes community involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood togetherness, and sends a signal to criminals to let them know neighborhoods are fighting back!

More than 37.8 million people and 16,124 communities participate in the event.

Some neighborhoods celebrate by hosting block parties, parades, cookouts, rallies and marches, youth events, visits from dignitaries and safe demonstrations. All activities are designed to enhance community safety and heighten awareness.

This event is held twice annually. The first National Night Out in 2014 was held on August 5th and the next one is on October 7th, which is only in the Texas region.

To register to participate (it’s free) and to receive more information, go to the National Night Out website.

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Back to School Campus Safety Tips for College Students

by AmyAugust 26, 2014

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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

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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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7 Safety Tips When Your Home Is For Sale

June 5, 2014

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