Social Media Posting on Your Holiday Activities? Think Again

Sure, it’s the season to share gifts, time and presents — as well as information about all our holiday activities. However, we must all be wary of what we share with the public on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

‘Tis the season to beware of multiple scams, from phony gift cards to fake charities seeking donations, as this Walpole, Massachusetts, Patch article explains. There are also thieves looking for empty houses to rob.

Given all the risks surrounding us, we should do our part not to expose potentially high-value information to total (and potentially felonious) strangers. This includes any social media posts that tell the world our homes are empty and unprotected while we are away visiting family

Loose Lips on Travel = Big Risks

Traveling is obviously a major risk. It leaves your house and property vulnerable for hours, days or even weeks as you visit friends and relatives. As this blog has noted previously, telling the world on Facebook you’ll be away from your home for any length of time is highly risky.

Would-be thieves can seek out such residences on Facebook and identify temporarily unoccupied houses to rob during the holidays. In fact, the town of North Andover, Massachusetts, considers social posting on any travel information a “holiday hazard” and urges citizens to say absolutely nothing about their whereabouts.

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‘Tis the Season for Holiday Home Safety

The holidays pose unique home and business safety risks. With so much travel, gift procurement and giving, thieves have an excellent opportunity to strike our homes and small businesses.

A recent Boston 25 article states the challenge like this: “While the holidays are a great time to sit back, relax and enjoy time with family and friends, it is also prime time for criminals to act. Whether it’s an online scam or breaking into your home, when December rolls around the rule of thumb is to sleep with one eye open.”

New England Grinches and Trolls

Just this month, three thieves robbed the Christmas decorations from a Norwell, Massachusetts, garden center. According to 7 News, the act was caught on video. The stolen objects are valued at $150. “We don’t know why they would do it to us,” says the store’s co-owner. “We’re honest people here, we work hard and we just want everybody to be happy.”

Naturally, the risk to our homes and businesses exists year-round, as the Boston 25 piece explains. One of Boston’s Back Bay residents, who operates a fitness studio on the first floor of his apartment house, installed a camera at his building’s entrance.

The results of his surveillance were shocking, amounting to “a revolving door of criminal activity.” He also says he lost count of “recent run-ins with trespassers and thieves in his front vestibule.” The holidays can exacerbate these dangers.

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Holiday Safety Includes Protecting Gifts

‘Tis the season for giving. For a small group of criminals, it’s also the time of taking — especially unattended packages left on front steps by Amazon and other delivery drivers. With the proliferation of online retail shopping, more and more gifts wind up on the front porch awaiting their recipients.

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Keep Your Home Safe from Carbon Monoxide

Winter is here, and we’ve already weathered our first big snowstorm of the season. Now, as temperatures keep dropping and the weather becomes more inclement, we New Englanders will be spending more and more time indoors.

This also means we need to be doubly on the alert about carbon monoxide — the “silent killer.” As this blog has noted previously, carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorless gas. It leaks from common heating and lighting sources, like faulty furnaces, portable generators, stoves, lanterns and gas ranges.

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Keep Thanksgiving Safe: Follow These Tips

With Halloween behind us, the holiday season has officially begun. It’s now time to think about home and travel safety in the midst of this season’s hustle and bustle.

Getting together with family and friends can be hectic, and the potential for accidents skyrockets with children running around, large dinners prepared and the fireplace roaring. As this blog has previously noted, Thanksgiving Day is the most common day for kitchen fires. Cooking accidents are the leading cause (77 percent) of Thanksgiving house fires in the United States.

That’s not even to mention the risks of traveling. Between heavy traffic, weather and other factors, Thanksgiving travel demands special precautions, as this safety checklist from a law office notes. Unfortunately, alcohol-related accidents caused 800 deaths between 2012 and 2016 during Thanksgiving alone.

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Defending Against Cyberbullying

In 21st century New England, protecting our loved ones’ lives and wellbeing must factor in new digital threats. Complete strangers can reach into our homes electronically, defeating any physical safety system we’ve installed.

And with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and social media platforms, the risk of cyberbullying – simply defined as inflicting intentional electronically enabled harm – only grows, as a guide on the subject illustrates.

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Daylight Savings: Don’t Forget to Check the Fire Alarms

Rolling our clocks back for the end of daylight saving time offers a reminder to check our smoke detectors and batteries. Fresh batteries and detectors will help protect our loved ones and property.

As an interesting Good Housekeeping article notes, the twice-yearly synchronization of our computers is, of course, automatic. Resetting our clocks and other devices requires manual intervention — so it’s a great policy to simultaneously and routinely check our smoke alarms’ power sources, too.

The Risk of Fire

Why should you add battery checkup to your list of things to do? Well, according to a survey cited in the article, only 57 percent of those who owned fire alarms had followed best practices and checked their alarms in the six months prior to being polled.

The U.S. Consumer Protection Agency echoes the findings of the magazine article, noting that in the United States, annually, there are:

  • About 330,000 home fires
  • Roughly 2,200 deaths
  • Some 11,000 emergency-room related injuries

Maintaining Smoke Alarms

Proper installation and maintenance of smoke alarms will reduce risk. When adding the alarm test to your daylight-saving time to-do list, there are some best practices to observe that will reduce risks and make the process more streamlined.

According to Good Housekeeping:

  • When removing the cover, lift it or twist it off — although sometimes the entire alarm detaches from the base
  • Replace battery with a new one (typically they are 9-volt)
  • Snap cover or battery back into place
  • Press test button to ensure it’s operational — it should emit a beep or chirp

While you are checking the smoke detector, you should also examine the manufacturer’s stamp indicating the year the device was made. Detectors lose their efficacy over time, and they need to be replaced every 10 years or less to remain up to code.

To go even further, install both smoke and carbon monoxide detection solutions. You can also procure monitoring services from a local provider who can immediately detect the presence of smoke or dangerous gasses and alert you and first responders.

But above all, make daylight saving time an occasion to consider safety as well as punctuality.

Next Steps

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Have A Happy & Safe Halloween

Halloween is upon us. A magical time for ghosts and goblins – or princes and princesses – to scamper through their neighborhoods in search of sweets and other treats.

At American Alarm, we love the spookiest day of the year.  While we make last minute costume decisions (Thanos or Black Widow?), courtesy of the Massachusetts State Fire Marshall and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we want to offer some helpful tips to ensure that you and your children have a spooktacular All Hallow’s Eve:

 

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Carbon Monoxide: Winter’s Silent Killer

This colorless and odorless gas escapes from faulty furnaces, as well as portable generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges and other sources. When the fumes enter an area lacking adequate ventilation, they become lethally dangerous. In fact, it’s the biggest cause of poisoning in the U.S. according to Mass.gov .

50,000 victims of carbon monoxide poisoning head to the emergency room annually, and out of those 430 never make it home. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that carbon monoxide poisonings spike in December and January — due in part to power outages caused by winter weather, which lead homeowners to use alternative power sources. Read more

Never Let Hurricane Season Catch You Unprepared

September marks the peak of hurricane season, a time when New England property is at risk, even without a direct hit.  Unfortunately, as this past season demonstrated, despite all the computers, instruments and software models, it’s impossible to make exact storm strike predictions.

Just last month, the tail end of Hurricane Florence was still strong enough to pummel New England — particularly coastal Massachusetts — as noted by a Boston Globe article. Florence brought a “deluge” of rain that flooded sections of the state, causing road closures and power outages. It hit the town of Saugus especially hard — hammering the area with winds exceeding 70 miles per hour and leaving a “mile-long path of destruction.” Read more