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The latest in MyAlarmCenter news.

How to Keep Your Smartphone Safe

by DerekJuly 29, 2014

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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

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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

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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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How to Protect Your Home While on Vacation

by AmyJuly 17, 2014

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You’re ready for vacation but have just one big concern…will your home be safe while you are gone?

If you have a home security system from My Alarm Center, you can be sure you’ve taken appropriate measures to protect yourself.

Now most of us know that we should have a neighbor check on our home while gone and that it’s wise to stop the newspaper and mail service. You may even need someone to cut the grass while you are away. Here are some more advanced tips to guard your home while on vacation.

Don’t Let Thieves Know You Are Away

Facebook has become one of the best friends of burglars. They simply scan Facebook looking for posts about people’s vacations and their vacation photos and then come to do their dirty work.

Don’t let this happen to you. If you want to share your vacation and travels with people online, do so when you are back home.

Airport parking lots are also home to thieves. They’ll break into cars looking for garage door openers and car registrations (looking for your home address).  Hide your garage door opener really well, or leave it at home.

Get rid of your clever hiding places for your house keys. Good thieves know all the tricks and even neighborhood vandals know to look for fake rocks and under the welcome mat.

Although it’s nice to have a friend check-in while you are away, use your smart phone and home camera system to check on your home in real time. Most systems can even send you alerts if something is wrong.

Avoid Household Disasters

You need to protect your home against more than just thieves while you are on vacation.  Other disasters can happen.

Unplug your electronics. High summer temperatures can create power surges that harm your gadgets. Protect them by unplugging them before you leave.

Look for drops of water and rust or corrosion around your water heater. Although there is no sure way to know when a water heater will start leaking, a simple check before you leave might prevent a problem while you are gone.

Don’t make the mistake of turning off your air conditioning while on vacation. Experts say in humid summers like we have in many parts of the country, a hot home attracts mold. Keep the thermostat somewhere in the mid-80s to avoid this problem.

My Alarm Center wants you to be safe while on vacation. Protect your home by following these tips. You may also be interested in learning what you can do to stay safe while traveling. Read our safety tips while traveling.

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The Internet of Things

by CassieJuly 15, 2014

 7.15

 

There is a big debate taking place among technology companies today.

These big conglomerates are developing technologies to use the internet to network and connect everyday objects, allowing them to send and receive data.

The technology is being referred to as “the internet of things” (IoT).

It all sounds kind of cool – everyday devices like coffee pots, thermostats, lights, TVs, hot tubs and just about anything you can think of could communicate and interact with one another using the internet. They could even work in conjunction with each other, and send useful data to users.

Experts argue that the internet of things would allow you to track and measure virtually everything. This will reduce waste, costs and loss. You’ll know when things need replacing, repairing or recalling, and if devices are past their prime.

You’ll also be able to control all these devices and access their information from your smartphone, tablet or any web enabled device.

There are a couple of hazards with the internet of things as well.

The big one is security. If your system gets compromised, people have access to your “things” and home. And in this era of data breeches (remember the credit card hackers that attacked Target?) that’s a huge risk.

The other big concern is personal privacy.

Many of the technology companies behind the internet of things also sell online advertising and other ad products. The more data they have about your behavior (from when you drink your coffee to when you flush your toilet), the more information they have to sell to advertisers. This potential invasion of personal privacy is also a real concern.

This technology is in its infancy and developments with it are happening regularly. Keep reading the My Alarm Center blog for trends and developments.

What do you think about the Internet of Things? Do you think you would use this technology? Leave us your comments in the space below.

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Stay Safe on Your Vacation

by DerekJuly 10, 2014

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After the brutal weather conditions most of us went through last winter, many of us have been counting the days to our summer vacation.

Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you’re safe from crime. That’s why we offer these tips to minimize your risks and to help keep you safe.

Before You Leave

  • Choose a safe destination if traveling outside the U.S. – Check for travel warnings and alerts published by the U.S. Government. Our State Department has a Safe Traveler Registration Program which will keep you up-to-date concerning happenings in the country of your vacation getaway. Also, know the contact information and location of the US Embassy of the country you are visiting.
  • Pick a reliable travel agent – The world is full of con artists and scammers. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true and agents that pressure you to make a quick decision and send them your money.
  • Price trip insurance – You can get insurance to cover trip cancellations, event cancellations, lost luggage and more.
  • Get your travel information in order – Make a copy of your passport and record all your credit card numbers. All of this will come in handy in the event they are lost or stolen. Keep the phone numbers of the fraud alert departments of your credit card providers with you in the event of emergency.
  • Make sure someone knows your travel plans and itinerary – It’s a good safety practice for someone at home to know where you’ll be and when. Set up a pre-determined schedule to check in with them. Notify them if your travel plans change.

 

While Traveling

  • Never leave luggage unattended – Also make sure to use your business address on luggage tags so thieves can’t spot your home address (many hang out at airport departure areas for this very reason).
  • Use traveler’s checks and credit cards whenever possible – They cover you against loss or theft.
  • Stay alert – Always be aware of your surroundings. Follow your instincts.
  • Never flash cash – Don’t draw attention to yourself.
  • Plan ahead –Think about what you’ll do in the event of travel delays, theft, lost luggage and other situations.
  • Keep it low key – Don’t dress like a rich tourist in public. Avoid the flashy watches and other jewelry.
  • Practice rental car safety – Thieves spot rental cars like kids see candy. Don’t leave valuables inside rentals.
  • Lock the doors – Keep the doors locked and use the safety bolts and chains any time you are in your hotel room. Don’t open the door to strangers.
  • Safety in numbers – Stay in public areas and travel in a group whenever possible. There is always safety in numbers when traveling in unfamiliar places.
  • Use the room safe – Keep valuables in the room safe or safety deposit boxes at the hotel. All valuables should be secured and out of site.
  • Plan your escape – Know the escape routes from the hotel in the event of fire.

Follow these simple precautions to stay safe on your vacation. And be sure to enjoy it. We know you’ve earned it.

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What Can You Do With a Home Automation System?

by AmyJuly 8, 2014

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Home automation systems are quite popular these days. Most of us have seen the television commercials of people locking their doors, turning on the air conditioning and observing their home through their smart phone.

 

Between convenience, savings, tablet and smartphone connectivity and lowering prices, these home automation systems are an attractive option to homeowners. They allow you to automate and/or control home, housework or household activity.

 

So what can you control with a home automation system? Here are some of the most popular items:

 

  • Control Door Locks – activate door locks at set times or from a web enabled device and check on door lock activity.
  • Security Alarm System – Remotely arm and disarm your system and trigger actions and notifications based upon your needs.
  • Control Appliances –Water pumps, hot tubs, dishwashers and much more.
  • Lighting – Control light intensity and control which lights are on or off.
  • Irrigation System – Program your system to never exceed municipal maximum allowable water use allowance or to operate under just about any condition you can think of. Animals eating your plants? Configure the system to activate when movement is detected on your lawn.
  • Blu-Ray Players, Stereos, TVs and Digital Cable Boxes – Select the inputs and outputs for centralized and remote control.
  • Garage Door – Access your home automation from your smartphone to open and close your garage door.
  • Thermostats – Operate your home heating and cooling from virtually anywhere. Adjust temperatures from your car on your way home from work.
  • Phones – Direct your phone to only answer for certain numbers.

 

If you are interested in learning more about a home automation system, please contact the experts at My Alarm Center. Call 855-334-6562 for more information.

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13 Tips for Outdoor Grilling and Barbequing Safely

by AmyJuly 3, 2014

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Most people have fond memories of outdoor barbeques. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and steaks – all enjoyed in beautiful summer breezes with family and friends.

But with this fun comes the risk of fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments respond to 7900 home fires each year involving grills, hibachis or barbeques. About one in three of these fires start on an unenclosed porch or exterior balcony.

All of us at My Alarm Center want you to fully enjoy outdoor grilling this summer. Follow these tips to avoid the risks of fire and other accidents:

  1. Study the owner’s manual. Review the owner’s manual of your grill each grilling season. It’s packed with tips and pointers to operate your grill in a safe manner.
  1. Follow local codes. For electrically operated accessories and outdoor kitchens, follow required grounding and building code rules and regulations.
  1. Inspect your grill to make sure it is in good working order. Make sure your grill is free of rust and holes. For propane grills, check the gas tank hose for leaks. Simply apply water and a light soap to the hose. A propane leak will create bubbles. You may also smell leaking gas. If you smell leaking gas or see the soapy bubbles and still have a flame, turn the grill off and get it serviced by a professional. If the leak or flame does not stop, call the fire department immediately.
  1. Only use grills outdoors. Place them well away from your home, away from branches and deck railings and out from under eaves.
  1. Make sure your grill is stable. All parts of the grill should be firmly in place so that it can’t be easily tipped over.
  1. Keep kids away from the grilling area. Keep pets away too. Both increase your risks of accidents.
  1. Keep starter fluids out of reach of children. Only use charcoal lighter fluids. Never add flammable liquids to an active fire. Keep lighter fluid away from heat and flame sources.
  1. Wear appropriate clothing. Clothing should not have loose strings or loose parts that could easily catch fire. Use flame retardant mitts when handling your grill.
  1. Use long-handled utensils. They reduce your risk of your clothing catching fire and of you getting burns while cooking.
  1. Be prepared to extinguish flames. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. If one is not available, baking soda, sand or water are other good options.
  1. Never leave your grill unattended. It only takes a second or two for a problem to start.
  1. Let the grill cool off. After grilling with charcoal, make sure the coals are completely cool before disposing of them in a metal container. Never attempt to move a hot grill. Make sure your grill is fully cool and clean before putting on a protective grill cover.
  1. Clean your grill after each use. Remove grease or fat buildup on the grill surface and the trays below the grilling area.

Summertime is fun time. Enjoy your outdoor grilling, enjoy your friends and family and follow these tips for outdoor grilling safely!

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Cable Company Security Customers Not Happy

by TammyJuly 1, 2014

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Cable companies, telephone companies and utility companies have recently entered the home security business. All are famous for their “bundled offers” that include home security systems. Some even include home automation and home camera surveillance systems.

 

Is buying one of these bundled packages including security a wise move for consumers?

 

It isn’t if you read the reviews provided by people that have bought bundled home security packages from cable providers.

 

Most have problems with technology that does not work or is not applied properly and customers that simply aren’t supported.

 

Think we’re kidding? Then simply search for reviews of any cable company offering security. Read what their customers have to say.
Some cable companies offer user forumsin lieu of real live customer support. Often time the cable companies are simply not staffed properly to handle service issues.

 

Cable and internet service provider companies routinely have the lowest customer satisfaction scores as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

 

In the past we’ve written about the hazards of buying a home security system from a cable company. It appears the problem is getting even worse.

 

When you are looking to protect your family and home, it’s best to focus on finding a local market provider with years of experience that specializes in home security. Make sure they have happy customers.

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Should You Buy a Home Security or Home Automation System from Your Cable Company?

by DerekJune 26, 2014

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It seems like you can buy a security or home automation system from just about anybody these days.

 

Your cable TV company will sell you one. They’ll even bundle it in a package with your internet, phone and TV programming.

 

Your utility company will sell you a home security system. You most likely won’t get a discount off your power bill but you will have more to read about in their monthly billing stuffers.

 

In the grab for more of your cash, cable companies and utilities companies are entering the home security and home automation business in record numbers. Even a search engine (Google) owns a home smoke detector company!

 

Why their interest in home security and automation? Two big reasons:

 

  1. Marketing research indicates that Americans are going to buy more home security and automation systems…they view it as a “growth market.”
  2. The home security and automation industry consists of many locally owned and operated companies, not large national corporations. Cable and utility companies know that most of their competitors in the home security business don’t have the multi-million dollar ad budgets like they do.

 

Now while competition in any industry usually benefits the consumer, where does it leave you?

 

Most likely, not in a position of security and safety that you need to be.

 

Security, safety and home automation is too important to leave in the hands of large corporate conglomerates.

 

You see, specialization is a good thing. Doing one thing allows people and companies to develop expertise, perspective and insights that transfer into better goods and services for you.

 

Protecting your home and family is too important to leave it up to a “jack of all trades, master of none” type of company. You need to rely on security experts, companies that focus on security alone!

 

There’s a reason why the fire department doesn’t provide law enforcement services. The guy that bakes the world’s best cakes probably isn’t qualified to serve a five course meal and just because you have a successful baseball team doesn’t mean you’ll win at soccer.

 

Think about this for a minute. If someone is trying to break into your home, who do you want protecting it…people that specialize in protection or a company known for long wait times for customer service?

 

The American Customer Satisfaction Index, published by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, condemns the services of big cable companies. The average company scores in the high 70s on the index while the average of the cable companies was just 65! Internet companies (many of which also provide cable) scored a paltry 63! It gets worse…customer satisfaction with these subscription TV providers fell 4.4% in the past year alone. The scores are amongst the lowest on the entire Index!

 

Most of the cable and utility companies offer a highly limited selection of home security and home automation systems. Most won’t work for larger homes. And there is nothing unique about the security technology and automation services that they do offer – you can get the same exact things from companies that specialize in the industry, not just from those that dabble in it.

 

When you need to rely on a service provider for your family’s safety, go to the specialists in your local community. That makes sense for car repairs, it makes sense for home repairs and it makes sense for home security and home automation.

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7 Safety Tips When Your Home Is For Sale

June 5, 2014

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