Winter Weather Preparations

If you live in area where it snows you know the drill. Three to four months of heavy clothes, seeing your breath and generally freezing outside.  But beyond the inconvenience and discomfort, a winter storm or other severe weather conditions can cause real damage. So it’s important to think about winter preparedness.

Protecting your home is vital. A frozen water pipe can burst and flood your house or basement. An ice dam in your gutter can cause water to seep into and saturate an interior wall. And then there’s your car. Making sure it’s prepped to face winter’s worst is just as critical. After all, what would happen if a blizzard stranded you in your car?  Below you will find tips for preparing your home and auto for the upcoming winter months.

Curious on how your homeowners and auto insurance will respond to winter risks? Please give our office a call and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.


Prepare yourself
Some winter weather tips to help you get through a severe stretch of cold:

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. It’s a serious workout, and going at it too hard can bring on a heart attack − a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
  • Stay dry. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits the cold rapidly.

Cold-related injuries

  • Watch for signs of frostbite: loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities. If any of these occur, get medical help immediately.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.
  • If any of the hypothermia symptoms appear, get yourself (or the victim) to a warm location, remove wet clothing, and warm the center of the body first. Give the patient warm, non-alcoholic beverages if they are conscious. And of course, get medical help as soon as possible.

Prepare your home
Some tips to brace your home for a winter storm:

  • Clean out the gutters, disconnect and drain all outside hoses. If possible, shut off outside water valves.
  • Insulate walls and attics, and caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Repair roof leaks and remove tree branches that could get weighed down with ice or snow and fall on your house – or your neighbor’s. (Avoid liability for the latter.)
  • Wrap water pipes in your basement or crawl spaces with insulation sleeves to slow heat transfer.
  • Consider an insulated blanket for your hot water heater.
  • If you have a fireplace, keep the flue closed when you’re not using it.
  • Have a contractor check your roof to see if it would sustain the weight of a heavy snowfall.
  • Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking your home’s heating vents.
  • During cold spells, keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes, particularly those in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces.
  • If your house will be unattended during cold periods, consider draining the water system.
  • Avoid ice dams – where water from melted snow refreezes in the gutters and seeps in under the roof, soaking interior walls.

Prepare your car
According to the Department of Transportation, 22% of all vehicle crashes in the U.S. – and 16% of the fatalities – are due to severe weather such as rain, snow, sleet and ice. So, prepare your car for treacherous conditions and extremely cold temperatures – and know what to do if you find yourself stranded in a vehicle. When the temperatures start to drop:

  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive, travel during the day.
  • Don’t travel alone. Keep others informed of your schedule.
  • Stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Top off antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, gas, oil and other fluids.
  • Make sure your tires have enough tread. Consider snow tires.
  • Keep bagged salt or sand in the trunk for extra traction and to melt ice.
  • Clear snow from the top of the car, headlights and windows.
  • Save the numbers for your auto club, insurance agent and towing service into your cell phone.
  • Keep a cold-weather kit in your trunk. It should include a blanket or sleeping bag, gloves, hard candy, bottled water, folding shovel, first aid kit, flashlight and cell phone charger.

If you’re trapped in a vehicle

  • Remain inside. Rescuers are more likely to find you there.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes every hour. Clear any snow from the exhaust pipe to reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Move around to maintain heat.
  • Use maps, floor mats and seat covers for insulation.
  • Take turns sleeping. Someone should always be awake to alert rescuers.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so rescue crews can find you.
  • If you’re stranded in a remote area, stomp out the words “SOS” or “HELP” in the snow.
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Halloween Safety Tips

Did you know that over $2 billion will be spent on Halloween candy this year? Or how about $330 million on just pet costumes?

We know that Halloween is one of children’s favorite holidays. The chance to dress up in a costume and fill bags with candy is a sure way to excite any youngster. (Plus, the fact that the average trick-or-treater consumes the equivalent of 220 packets of sugar on this holiday doesn’t hurt either.)

For parents, though, the night can be a little stressful as you worry about your kids’ safety. With that in mind, we have compiled an infographic with 31 interesting statistics and facts associated with Halloween along with a brief list of safety tips. We encourage you to take a look at it just in case there is a tip or two that will help you avoid any potential accidents or danger.

Safety Tips

Trick-or-treating

  • Make sure your children take flashlights so they can avoid tripping over obstacles on the sidewalk or in yards.  Flashlights and glow sticks will also help your children be seen by motorists.
  • If you allow your older kids to go out without your supervision, make sure they go out in a group.  Don’t ever allow your kids to go out alone or even in pairs; make sure they go out with at least 3-4 other kids.
  • Map out their route so you know where they will be and when they should be home.
  • Tell your kids to only stop at familiar homes where you know the residents and where the outside lights are on.
  • Instruct your kids to WALK from house to house and NEVER run.
  • Make sure your kids know to never enter anyone’s home, to never accept rides from strangers, and to never take shortcuts through yards or other dimly lit areas

Costumes

  • Costumes should be light enough to be clearly visible to motorists.  You may even want to add reflective tape to both your child’s costume and bag.
  • Make sure your child’s costume is labeled flame-resistant.
  • Costumes should be short to prevent trips and falls.
  • Try cosmetic face paint rather than a mask.   Masks, especially on children, may not fit properly and can obstruct vision.
  • Be sure to remove all face paint that night to prevent skin irritation.

Candy

  • Don’t allow your child to eat any candy before you have a chance to inspect it for choking hazards or tampering.
  • Only permit your child to eat candy that is unopened in its original wrapper.  Any homemade or unwrapped candy should be discarded.
  • A good way to prevent your kids from eating any candy before they get home is to make sure you give them a meal or snack right before they go out.
  • Above all else, limit the amount of candy your child eats after they get home or you will be dealing with one big stomachache.

Adults

  • Use additional caution when driving a vehicle.   Lookout for children who might run into traffic from behind parked cars or other obstacles.
  • Turn on your porch and any other exterior lights to welcome trick-or-treaters to your home.
  • Remove any obstacles from your lawns, steps or porches that could be a tripping hazard for children or adults.
  • Keep all jack-o’-lanterns from doorsteps or steps where a child could brush by the flame with their costume.
  • If you keep your jack-o’-lantern inside, place it on a sturdy table away from curtains or other ignitable decorations and out of reach from children and pets.

Tips to Avoid Purchasing a Flood Car

As we’ve all seen recently in the news, hurricanes (and the floods that result from them) can create enormous damage to properties and vehicles. In fact, one recent estimate from Hurricane Harvey, estimated over 200,000 vehicles would be totaled due to flood damaged.As we’ve all seen recently in the news, hurricanes (and the floods that result from them) can create enormous damage to properties and vehicles. In fact, one recent estimate from Hurricane Harvey, estimated over 200,000 vehicles would be totaled due to flood damaged.
If you are in the market for a new vehicle, be wary, as flood vehicles offer a tempting opportunity for criminals to defraud unsuspecting consumers. By definition, a flood vehicle has been completely or partially submerged in water to the extent that its body, engine, transmission or other mechanical component parts have been damaged.
If the vehicle is so damaged that it is no longer operable, the driver’s insurance company settles the claim by buying the vehicle and selling it as a “salvage” at an auto auction.
Dishonest and unscrupulous car dealers buy the vehicles, dry and clean them, yet leave plenty of hidden flood damage. They then transport the vehicles to states unaffected by the storm or natural disaster and sell them as used vehicles to unsuspecting buyers.
These dishonest dealers will not disclose the damage on the vehicle’s title as they are required, which is a crime called “title washing.” The vehicles are then sold with the hidden damage.
Below are some tips to help you avoid purchasing a vehicle that may be flood damaged.


Fraud prevention tips
Consumers can take preventive measures before purchasing a used vehicle to avoid being victimized by flood vehicle fraud:

  • Select a reputable car dealer.
  • Inspect the vehicle for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpets, floor mats, headliner cloth and behind the dashboard.
  • Check for recently shampooed carpet.
  • Inspect the interior upholstery and door panels for fading.
  • Check for rust on screws in the console or areas where water normally doesn’t reach.
  • Check for mud or grit in the spare tire compartment, alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses, around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.
  • Check inside the seatbelt retractors by pulling the seatbelt all the way out and inspect for moisture, mildew or grime.
  • Check door speakers as they will often be damaged due to flooding.
  • Have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchasing it.
  • Ask about the vehicle’s history. Ask whether it was in any accidents or floods.
  • Inspect the title and ownership papers for any potential or questionable salvage fraud.
  • Conduct a title search of the vehicle.
  • Look under the hood for signs of oxidation. Pull back rubber boots around electrical and mechanical connections for these indicators: Ferrous materials will show signs of rust and copper will show a green patina
  • Aluminum and alloys will have a white powder and pitting.
  • Trust your instincts: If you don’t like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away!

Protecting Your Home From Mold

When it comes to keeping your home mold-free, a strong offense is definitely your best defense. To prevent mold, eliminate moisture from your home and be on the lookout for signs of possible growth, such as musty smells or watermarks on walls and ceilings.

Caught early, mold can usually be removed by a thorough cleaning with bleach and water. To prevent mold from re-growing, however, it is essential that the source of the moisture be eliminated and the affected area properly dried, cleaned, and if necessary, replaced. Also, remember to bag and dispose of any material with moldy residue such as rags, paper or debris.

Mold, like rot and insect infestation, is generally not covered by a homeowners insurance policy. Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for disasters that are sudden and accidental. They are not designed to cover the cost of cleaning and maintaining a home. If, however, mold is the direct result of a covered peril such as a burst pipe, there could be coverage for the cost of eliminating the mold.

To help prevent the growth of mold in your home, take a look at our suggestions below.  If you would like to find out how your homeowners insurance will respond in the event of a mold-related claim, please contact our office.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold is everywhere. It grows year-round and can be found both indoors and outdoors. Outdoors, mold is commonly found in shady, damp areas and in soil. Indoors, it can be found where humidity and moisture levels are high, such as in basements, kitchens, bathrooms and on ceilings and wall interiors where water from leaky pipes, roofs or windows can accumulate. While most molds pose no threat to humans, the CDC warns that certain molds can produce hay fever-like allergic symptoms. If you or your children have symptoms associated with mold, see a physician. Keep in mind, that many symptoms associated with mold exposure are common to other illnesses.

Reduce Humidity In Your Home

  • Keep the humidity level in your home between 30 percent to 60 percent by using air conditioners or dehumidifiers.
  • Put exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Don’t install carpets in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms.
  • Don’t let water accumulate under house plants.

Use Mold-Reducing Products

  • Clean bathrooms with bleach and other mold killing products.
  • Add mold inhibitors to paints before application.

Keep Your Home and Belongings Dry

  • Inspect hoses, pipes and fittings – Consider replacing hoses to major appliances like washer and dishwasher every five years. A typical water hose costs $5-$10
    • Refrigerator ice maker and water dispenser
    • Water heater
    • Washer
    • Dishwashers
    • Kitchen and bathroom sinks
    • Bathroom toilets
  • Keep gutters clean of leaves and other debris.
  • Maintain your roof to prevent water from seeping into your home.

Be Careful After A Flood Or Other Water Damage

  • Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Anything that can’t be properly dried should be discarded.
  • Remove standing water as quickly as possible. Standing water is a breeding ground for microorganisms, which can become airborne and inhaled.
  • Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets, shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems.

If you have any questions regarding mold and homeowners insurance, contact our office. We can provide information on how to maintain your home and may also be able to provide the name of an expert in mold-remediation. You can get more information on mold by accessing the Center for Disease Control.

Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Move over, summer–a new school year is coming! With the start of school, families face new organization challenges. School bells ring–and so do early-morning alarm clocks. Paper piles swell as hand-outs and homework stream into the house.

Shorter autumn days bring a hectic round of sports, activities and events, and calendars fill with cryptic notes. Can the holidays be far behind?

Get organized now for the best school year ever! Use these ideas to prepare your home and family for the busy days ahead.


Making the First Day Easier

  • If your child seems nervous, remind him or her that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. This may be at any age. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school to create positive anticipation about the first day. Your child will see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh his or her positive memories about previous years, when he or she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because of a good time.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend any available orientations and take an opportunity to tour the school before the first day.

Backpack Safety

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight. Go through the pack with your child weekly, and remove unneeded items to keep it light.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, they may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers.

Traveling To and From School

School Bus

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.​
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where he or she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see him or her, too).
  • Remind your child to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required.
  • Check on the school’s policy regarding food on the bus. Eating on the bus can present a problem for students with food allergies and can also lead to infestations of insects and vermin on the vehicles.
  • If your child has a chronic condition that could result in an emergency on the bus, make sure you work with the school nurse or other school health personnel to have a bus emergency plan.​

​Car

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations (even when using hands-free devices or speakerphone), texting, or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction. Limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process.

Bike

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic and ride in bake lanes if they are present.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.

Walking to School

  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school. In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them or have another adult walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.

Eating During the School Day

  • Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy.
  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and/or have them posted on the school’s website. With this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Look into what is offered inside and outside of the cafeteria, including vending machines, a la carte, school stores, snack carts, and fundraisers held during the school day. All foods sold during the school day must meet nutrition standards established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). They should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water, and 100% fruit juice.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options (such as water and appropriately sized juice and low-fat dairy products) to send in your child’s lunch.

Developing Good Homework & Study Habits

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework starting at a young age. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework; build this time into choices about participation in after school activities.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • By high school, it’s not uncommon for teachers to ask students to submit homework electronically and perform other tasks on a computer. If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the Internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to develop appropriate accommodations.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do your child’s homework for him or her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive.
  • If your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak with your child’s teacher for recommendations on how you or another person can help your child at home or at school. If you have concerns about the assignments your child is receiving, talk with his or her teacher.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider.
  • Some children may need help remembering their assignments. Work with your child and his or her teacher to develop an appropriate way to keep track of his or her assignments–such as an assignment notebook.
  • Establish a good sleep routine. Insufficient sleep is associated with lower academic achievement in middle school, high school and college, as well as higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness. The optimal amount of sleep for most adolescents (13 to 18 years of age) is in the range of 8 to 10 hours per night.

Camping Safety Tips

Did you know that over 40 million Americans will go camping at least once per year?  Or that over 7 million Americans will go camping on Memorial Day weekend alone?

While becoming one with nature is clearly a draw for many of us, camping comes with some inherent dangers that aren’t typical concerns in the cities and suburbs.

Sudden thunderstorms, unruly insects or animals and health hazards like dehydration and altitude sickness can all put a serious damper on what should be an amazing outdoor experience. Luckily there are ways to decrease the chances of camping dangers affecting your next trip.

Below you will find some tips and tricks to ensure you camping trips are safe, fun, and, most importantly, bear free.


Overall Safety Tips

  • Travel with a companion. You don’t want to be by yourself in case of an emergency. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a responsible person. Include such details as the make, year, and license plate of your car, the equipment you’re bringing, the weather you’ve anticipated, and when you plan to return. If you’ll be entering a remote area, your group should have a minimum of four people; this way, if one is hurt, another can stay with the victim while two go for help. If you’ll be going into an area that is unfamiliar to you, take along someone who knows the area or at least speak with those who do before you set out. If an area is closed, do not go there. Know ahead of time the location of the nearest telephone or ranger station in case an emergency does occur on your trip.
  • Be in good physical condition. Set a comfortable pace as you hike. A group trip should be designed for the weakest member of the group. If you have any medical conditions, discuss your plans with your health care provider and get approval before departing. Make sure you have the skills you need for your camping or hiking adventure. You may need to know how to read a compass, erect a temporary shelter, or give first aid. Practice your skills in advance. If your trip will be strenuous, get into good physical condition before setting out. If you plan to climb or travel to high altitudes, make plans for proper acclimatization to the altitude.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the trail conditions and season.
  • Be weather wise. Keep an eye on current and predicted weather conditions. In this area, weather can change very quickly. Know the signs for approaching storms or changing weather conditions. Avoid bare ridge tops, exposed places, lone trees, streams, and rocks during lightning storms. Find shelter in a densely forested area at a lower elevation. Even in the summer, exposure to wind and rain can result in hypothermia.
  • Learn basic first aid so you will know how to identify and treat injuries and illnesses. Carry a first aid kit with you. Learn how to identify the symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia, and dehydration, and know how to treat them.
  • Make camp before dark. Traveling after darkness has resulted in many accidents from falls, so travel only during daylight. Set up camp well away from the edge of cliffs, and learn the terrain during daylight. If you have to leave camp after dark, stay in areas you have seen in daylight, go with a friend, and always use a good flashlight.
  • Think before you drink! No matter how clean or pure stream water looks, it’s likely to contain water-borne parasites and microorganisms that can cause discomfort and sometimes serious illness. Pack your water in, or purify through chemical treatment.

Outdoor Safety: Camping Tips

  • Pack a first aid kit. Your kit can prove invaluable if you or a member of your group suffers a cut, bee sting or allergic reaction. Pack antiseptics for cuts and scrapes, tweezers, insect repellent, bug spray, a snake bite kit, pain relievers, and sunscreen.
  • Bring emergency supplies. In addition to a first aid kit, this includes: a map, compass, flashlight, knife, waterproof fire starter, personal shelter, whistle, warm clothing, high energy food, water, and insect protection.
  • Check for potential hazards. Be sure to check the site thoroughly for glass, sharp objects, branches, large ant beds, poison ivy, bees, and hazardous terrain.
  • Avoid areas of natural hazards. Check the contour of the land and look for potential trouble due to rain. Areas that could flood or become extremely muddy can pose a problem.
  • Inspect the site. Look for a level site with enough room to spread out all your gear. Also, a site that has trees or shrubs on the side of prevailing winds will help block strong, unexpected gusts.
  • Build fires in a safe area. Your open fires and fuel-burning appliances must be far enough away from the tent to prevent ignition from sparks, flames, and heat. Never use a flame or any other heating device inside a tent. Use a flashlight or battery-powered light instead.
  • Make sure your fires are always attended. Be sure you have an area for a fire that cannot spread laterally or vertically – a grill or stone surface is ideal. When putting the fire out, drown it with water, making sure all embers, coals and sticks are wet. Embers buried deep within the pile have a tendency to reignite later.
  • Pitch your tent in a safe spot. Make sure your tent is made of a flame-retardant fabric, and set up far enough away from the campfire. Keep insects out of your tent by closing the entrance quickly when entering or leaving.
  • Beware when encountering wildlife. To ward off bears, keep your campsite clean, and do not leave food, garbage, coolers, cooking equipment or utensils out in the open. Remember that bears are potentially dangerous and unpredictable – never feed or approach a bear. Use a flashlight at night – many animals feed at night and the use of a flashlight may warn them away.
  • Beware of poisonous plants. Familiarize yourself with any dangerous plants that are common to the area. If you come into contact with a poisonous plant, immediately rinse the affected area with water and apply a soothing lotion such as calamine to the affected area.

Outdoor Safety: If You Get Lost

  • Pay close attention to your surroundings and landmarks, and relate this to your location on a map.
  • Stay calm if you get lost. Panic is your greatest enemy. Try to remember how you got to your present location.
  • Trust your map and compass, and do not walk aimlessly. If you are on a trail, don’t leave it.
  • Stay put if it is nightfall, if you are injured, or if you are near exhaustion.
  • As a last resort, follow a drainage or stream downhill. This can be hard going but will often lead to a trail or road.

Tips for Installing a Home Security System

We don’t want to alarm you (couldn’t help ourselves), but, according to the FBI, more than 2 million homes are burglarized in the United States every year. This means that someone is breaking into a home somewhere across the country about every 13 seconds. To avoid being the victim of a burglary, getting a home security system is your best option.

Many consumers, though, don’t know exactly what to look for in a home security system. Are there specific features I need to add? What questions should I ask potential vendors? Where and how should it be installed? With these questions in mind, here is a list of 10 things you should know before you buy a home security system. You’ll learn not only the basics, but also what to look for in a system to protect your valuables and your family.

Also, keep in mind that a home security system will also provide premium savings to your homeowners insurance policy. If you would like to find out more, please contact our office.


 

1. Home security systems are affordable.  Even if you are on a limited budget, you can have a home security system. You might want to consider a traditional burglar alarm system; this will give you sensors on your doors and windows, and alert you to any intruders. While not as advanced as a home security system, it will provide adequate protection for your valuables and your family.

If your budget allows, you can opt for a system that is larger, is more advanced and has extra features. This can include fire alarms, carbon monoxide alerts and intruder alerts, and can provide you with immediate access to emergency personnel. A more advanced system can also include the use of asset protection devices.

2. The installation process varies. The installation process of your home security system depends on what type you purchase. A traditional wired system will need to be installed by a professional, and often requires some drilling (and holes in your walls) to connect the sensors to the main alarm system.

On the other hand, a wireless system is much easier to install, as no drilling is required. In most cases, wireless systems are powered by battery, although some are powered by solar panels.

Installation will also depend on the company you purchase it through; special equipment may be needed to connect you directly to the security company or emergency personnel. Ask what is required for the installation so that you are prepared for the process (and the potential mess).

3. Security systems operate even during power outages.  Many homeowners are concerned about how the home security system is powered. Suppose you are on vacation and get word that there was a storm in your neighborhood that knocked out the electricity. Is your home security system still on? Is your home protected? Should you return home?

Don’t be alarmed: No matter what type of system you have, it will continue to operate even when there is no power at your home. A traditional system that is powered by electricity is typically low voltage, which means it doesn’t actually take a lot of power to run the system. And these types of systems contain a large battery that will back up the system when the main power is out.

Another option is a solar-powered security system. You can set this up to be only one component, such as an outdoor security camera, or your entire system can be run on solar power. A solar-powered system is more costly, but if you are looking for a “green” solution that will provide security even when there is no electricity, this is the best option.

4. Burglar alarms are not home security systems. There are major differences between a burglar alarm and a home security system; the latter provides additional benefits to help protect you and your family, and it may be the better investment. Before signing up with a company, it is important that you know what you are getting, what is protected and how the system works.
A burglar alarm is the traditional type of alarm system that has sensors on doors and windows. It will alert you or law enforcement (depending on your settings) that an intruder has entered into your home. This is extremely beneficial — but a home security system can also warn you about environmental dangers, such as fire, carbon monoxide and even flooding.

5. Size does matter. Although some security companies may tell you there is only one kind of security system for everyone, this is not true. In fact, several types and sizes are available, each of which can be customized to fit your needs. Sure, doing so will cost more; but it also will provide you with a higher level of security, as it will be designed specifically to fit your home and your way of life.

A small system might be fine for an apartment or small home. If you have a larger home, you’ll need a system that can handle a larger amount of information and monitoring. A large home requires a system that covers all the doors and windows, as well as the grounds.

6. Many systems offer personal security. Suppose you slipped while walking down the stairs and couldn’t get to a phone. How long would it take before someone came looking for you? Many home security systems are equipped with technology that can be beneficial in a medical emergency.

In most instances, you can get a pendant or bracelet that allows you to push a button to immediately be put in contact with emergency personnel. When you purchase this type of service, help will be available to you 24 hours a day. This option is great for the elderly, as well as those who live alone or don’t have neighbors close by.

7. Choose your provider carefully. Now that you have determined the importance of a home security system, and know what services are available, you will need to choose a service provider. First, consider how long the company has been in business. We recommend you choose a company that has at least 10 years of service, but that has updated, modern equipment. This track record will give you not only customer feedback, but also peace of mind.

Second, consider the distance between you and the monitoring location. We recommend that you be no more than 250 miles away. The farther away you are from a monitoring location, the longer it can take for the alarm to relay, which could delay the amount of time it takes for someone to get to your home.

8. Additional services may not be worth it. As you begin calling home security companies, you will be offered additional devices and services that can be added to increase your security. However, not all of the devices are worth the price you will have to pay.

For instance, if you have no valuable paintings or jewelry, or other items that you want specifically protected, then you would not want to pay for asset protection devices. On the other hand, if you do have high-priced items in your home, then asset protection devices are definitely worth investing in.

Other high-tech devices you might find worth the cost are personal alarm systems, which provide you with immediate access to emergency personnel, as well as security cameras that can be linked to your smartphone. This allows you to monitor your home even while you are away; it is the way of the future.

9. Asset protection devices protect valuables. You can install devices that will alert you if your valuables have been tampered with. Asset protection devices let you know when, for example, a jewelry box has been opened, a painting has been moved or a safe has been tampered with, even if there is no physical evidence.

Asset protection devices are not only beneficial when it comes to theft, but also they give you peace of mind. For example, if a repair person or house cleaner comes into your home while you are away, you will know whether they disturbed your valuable items. When thinking about asset protection devices, consider how many you will need.

10. There are other less-obvious benefits. Aside from the security of knowing that your personal possessions are protected, there are other benefits to having a home security system that just might help you make the decision to purchase one.

For instance, many homeowners insurance policies offer a reduction on premiums for those who have a home security system installed. In addition, more advanced home security systems can provide you with an alert if one of your appliances is not working properly and could cause damage to your home. Furthermore, home security systems give guests, babysitters and nannies peace of mind, knowing that they are safe and secure in your home.