Senior man putting up or taking down outdoor Christmas lights from the gutter of a suburban house

Tips for Taking Down Holiday Decorations

Senior man putting up or taking down outdoor Christmas lights from the gutter of a suburban houseTaking down holiday decorations is simply not as fun as putting them up and enjoying them all throughout the season. It is also more dangerous. Your home’s pathways may be covered in snow, ice, or rain water, making climbing a ladder hazardous. Your tree may have turned from lush and green to dry and brittle, creating a more serious fire hazard. You may wonder if it’s okay not to take your usual care in organizing and cleaning your decorations this year.

Upwards of 17,000 people are treated in hospital rooms each year for holiday decoration related injuries. This means that it is exceptionally important to take care when removing and/or disposing of your decorations. To ensure that you are kept safe throughout the process, observe the following safety measures. It may take some extra time, energy, and concentration, but it will be well worth it when you are enjoying a nice evening in your decoration-free living room rather than in an emergency room.

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Shot of a young man using a laptop and credit card at home

Online Christmas Shopping Security for Safer Holiday Gifting

Shot of a young man using a laptop and credit card at homeMany of us will be gifting from afar this year by purchasing and shipping our gifts online. The uptick in online shopping thanks to the pandemic means that there are more opportunities for fraud, ID theft, phishing, and other harmful scams. 

With holiday fraud attempts already growing each year, it’s important to know how to keep yourself safe. Avoid these bad actors by employing some key online shopping security tips this year.

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Young girl is reading alone on her laptop late at night

Cyberbullying and Remote Learning | National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Young girl is reading alone on her laptop late at nightWhether they are the perpetrator, victim or witness, the majority of today’s schoolchildren will be involved in cyberbullying in some way. Now that most schools have moved online, instances of cyberbullying are likely to rise even higher. Access to the internet and their cell phone during remote learning hours will inevitably increase the risk for real-time cyberbullying. 

The negative effects of online bullying can be severe. Victims are far more likely to use and abuse substances, skip class, and receive failing grades than their non-bullied peers. They are also at a greater risk for serious mental health issues such as depression, chronic anxiety and suicide ideation. Parents and teachers need to take particular precautions during this season of online schooling to make sure their child’s health and wellbeing are protected.

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CCTV Security monitoring student in classroom at school.Security camera surveillance for watching and protect group of children while studying.

A Great Time for School Security System Upgrades

CCTV Security monitoring student in classroom at school.Security camera surveillance for watching and protect group of children while studying.Upgrading School Security Systems

As a school administrator, are you wondering how to respond to new threats such as COVID-19 when you reopen your facilities? Besides the usual risks (vandals, thieves, intruders and potential shooters), administrators must now factor in hygiene and cleanliness protections (surveillance and monitoring may assist with these efforts).

The upside is that school buildings are less occupied and quieter than usual because of the pandemic. This provides the opportunity to get large projects done with less disruption, including bigger and more ambitious security infrastructure upgrades than would be possible during a normal summer season.

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Teenage girl with mobile phone in bed

How Monitoring Your Kids’ Online Activity Mitigates Break-Ins

Online “casing” has become a new favorite tool of burglars throughout the country. Statistics show that nearly 75% of home invaders used a resident’s online presence in some way to target and locate their home. While adults use social media and other online platforms to engage with the world, children are far more Teenage girl with mobile phone in bedinvested in their virtual life, which makes them a vulnerable target for would-be burglars looking for easy access to a vacant home.

There are many ways you can monitor your child’s online presence to ensure that your entire family – and your home – are kept safe from intruders. First, it’s important to know exactly how potential robbers locate the information they need.

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Tips To Keep Your Basement From Flooding

Fight Back The Floods

As New Englanders, we should always be ready to protect our basements from flooding — particularly when caused by spring rains or severe storms.

This blog has covered the risks storms and floods pose to our businesses and homes, and to seasonal homes in particular. A flooding disaster can cost thousands of dollars in damage to property, and inflict huge stress on homeowners.

Our basements can be inundated at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected ways, as one North Woodstock, New Hampshire, couple learned last April. According to a CBSN Boston January article, the couple’s basement was flooded by 16 inches of water — which they alleged was part of the runoff from a commercial ice castle attraction.

The couple spent $30,000 on a system to drain the estimated 35,000 gallons of water from the basement and keep it dry. Read more

Young woman setting burglar alarm at home.

Stay Protected During COVID-19 Crisis

Maintain Your Alarm/Safety Services During COVID-19 Crisis

First, we wish all safety for you and yours through the COVID-19 crisis.

It’s also worth remembering that though many of us are working from home and practicing social distancing, we still need to be reasonably cautious. This means maintaining our security and environmental surveillance and monitoring systems.

Sobering Statistics

Despite our relative isolation at home, we’re still vulnerable to theft or vandalism. That’s because despite good times or bad, criminals never really rest. In fact, contrary to what we might expect, crime hasn’t universally decreased: in some areas, it’s shown an uptick.

Young woman setting burglar alarm at home.

In New York City, general crime incidents spiked by 12 percent in the first three months of 2020 (as compared to the prior year) according to a news story. Burglaries rose by 22 percent, or 533 more cases. Possibly this is a mark of desperation, but whatever the cause, it’s a fact that robberies generally do rise in such crises, as local police and FBI statistics will likely bear out.

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Chimney Fires: A Serious Danger Year-Round

You may think of your chimney as an architectural adornment that provides warmth on cold winter days, but in reality, it’s a tunnel to remove dangerous flue gasses from your home. These fumes cause condensation inside the chimney, which in turn deposits creosote — a highly flammable chemical that frequently causes chimney fires.

As this blog has previously noted, the threat of chimney blazes in New England, and beyond, is real. Chimney fires can have many consequences, including tragic ones. In Massachusetts alone, in 2018, there were 556 fires involving chimneys, fireplaces and wood stoves, according to mass.gov. These led to one death and $3 million in property losses.

Additionally, the very nature of chimney fires makes them extremely dangerous, according to an informative website. The fires aren’t dramatic: they survive on limited air and fuel, meaning they burn slowly — and are often undetected until an inspection. Without the owner realizing what’s happening, these fires can melt a chimney, or make it crack and collapse. Then the fire moves into the house — and potentially, into the wood frame.

Lack of Diligence Makes Chimneys Risky

Chimney fires can strike anywhere. In February, a chimney fire in Plympton, Massachusetts, ignited the roof of a house, according to the local press. It took firefighters 10 minutes to control the blaze, and luckily, there were no injuries. “This incident could have been a lot worse and is a good reminder to make sure your chimney is inspected and cleaned yearly,” the Plympton Fire Department proclaimed on Facebook.

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How Long Can You Last Without Electricity?

Power outages are an unfortunate reminder just how dependent we are on electricity for, well, almost everything.

Outages can deprive us of communications, heat and other necessities. During the winter in New England, power loss can be a serious threat to safety, not just an inconvenience. A power outage while no one is home can also disable security systems — leaving homes and other properties vulnerable to thieves or vandals.

Many things can cause an outage, according to a Massachusetts government instruction guide. New Englanders are familiar with weather-related causes, including snow, freezing rain, high winds, thunderstorms and hurricanes. These outages can happen in any season and can last for days or weeks, depending on the severity of the damage.

Year-Round Power Outages

Winter snow, ice and violent winds are major culprits for downed power lines in New England. Earlier this month, high storm winds left nearly 90,000 people without power in Eastern Massachusetts, as a local news station notes.

One Rhode Island news station reported that trees through the region “snapped like toothpicks” from the gusts, which exceeded 70 miles per hour. In the Ocean State, 25,000 people lost power. More than 11,000 Bay State residents remained without power the next day — along with 35,000 New Hampshire residents.

Such extreme weather events can hammer us throughout the year. Just last fall, a so-called nor’easter struck and left hundreds of thousands of New Englanders without power, as NPR notes. The article states the combo of “heavy rain, strong winds and floods” took out power across three states.  

Both those incidents are dwarfed in comparison to the August 2003 blackout that affected not just Massachusetts, but states through the Northeast, as well as Canada. The incident started with a high voltage power line in Ohio brushing against some overgrown trees, says an article in Scientific American. The line shut down, starting a cascade of incidents that led to 50 million people losing power for up to two days. Other results included 11 deaths and a loss of some $6 billion.

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Your Pets Are Vulnerable to Theft: Are You Ready?

You may not have realized it, but National Pet Theft Awareness Day, February 14, just passed us by. It’s a great time to think about our beloved pets and how to protect them from thieves or malicious people. The awareness event launched in 1988, notes a blog on the Puppy Up Foundation website, with the aim of educating pet owners in protecting their animals from theft.

The potential animal theft problem in New England (and beyond) is greater than you may realize. Close to 2 million pets are stolen annually, according to some estimates. Among the reasons is profit, website PetFBI notes, as thieves may be motivated by getting reward money.

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