Imagine your coffee maker switching on by itself, staying on for hours, overheating and becoming a fire hazard. That's not science fiction. As more and more appliances incorporate WIFI, the opportunities for hackers to play havoc with your home gadgets increase.
How do you prevent that from happening? Here are some safety tips:
• If your gadget uses a password to access the settings, change that password frequently. Ideally, change it once every 3 months.
• Some gadgets, such as alarm systems, come with their own connection to the internet. Learn how to turn that connection off if it becomes necessary to do so.
• Don't leave an internet-connected appliance or other gadget on constantly unless it’s necessary. For example, you don't need your home speaker system connected to your digital music providers all the time.
• Baby monitors with video are a common target for hackers. Use a password unique to that device and change it often. Never leave the monitor on when not in use.
• Never share passwords with anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. Most home WIFI systems have a "guest" feature with a separate password and limited access. Use it.
In this age of internet connectivity — from coffee makers to stereos and even washing machines — it's smart to play it safe. Know what's connected and protect yourself.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 160 people are injured each year in BBQ mishaps. That doesn't sound like a lot considering the thousands of people who flip burgers on their backyard grills each year. But, you certainly don't want to be one of those injured!
The best way to prevent fire and injury is maintenance. Remarkably, few people are even aware that BBQ maintenance is necessary. But, it is.
Every spring, experts say you should clean out the venturi tubes. Those are the little metal pipes that carry propane or natural gas. Pipe cleaners work well, although hardware stores also carry specialized tools for this purpose. The goal is to clean out any builtup dirt and debris. Don't be surprised if you find spider webs inside a venturi tube!
Your BBQ grills should also be cleaned with soap and water each year. Just scraping them before barbequing isn’t enough. Fat and oils from cooking can build up on grills and harden. If you're getting a lot of flare-ups, this may be the cause.
Finally, make sure nuts and bolts are tightened regularly, and replace any rusty hardware. Regular use, heat and weather can loosen or weaken bolts, particularly on the frame. Several fires each year are caused by BBQs tipping over or collapsing.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is invisible and odourless, so you can't actually "watch out for it". However, you should monitor for it because an excessive build-up of this gas in your home can be deadly.
Fortunately, there are many types of Carbon Monoxide detectors you can purchase — and most are effective and affordable. Some models simply plug into an outlet. (Many also have a battery backup.)
Carbon Monoxide is caused by the incomplete burning of fuel. It can be released by a faulty gas furnace, kerosene heaters, and gas fireplaces. That's why it's a good idea to install detectors in areas close to these fixtures, as well as near bedrooms.
Experts say you should always follow manufacturer's instructions when installing CO detectors, and test them regularly. You want to make sure you can hear the alarm from your bedroom.
CO build-up in homes is rare. So your detectors may never go off. But, if the alarm does sound, get everyone (including pets) out of the home and into the fresh air. Then call 911. Typically, the fire department will do an inspection and determine the source of the carbon monoxide.
A final tip: Never use your BBQ or outside grill in the garage or, especially, anywhere inside your home. The risk of CO exposure is very high and definitely not worth the convenience of a grilled burger!
According to law enforcement experts, a video-based home security system is significantly more effective than a simple alarm system. The reason is obvious. Burglars don’t want their crimes captured on video, which can then be used as evidence in court.
So it’s no wonder that many homeowners have, or are considering, video-based security.
These days, most video-based home security systems are wireless. The cameras either record to your DVR (just like recording your favourite TV show), or to a cloud-based server provided by the manufacturer.
There are many do-it-yourself systems on the market. You simply place the cameras around your property and do some initial setup. Most of these have motion-detection that records automatically when someone comes into the frame of the camera. These are typically installed at your front door, patio door, main floor windows, and garage door.
Some systems will even alert you when a camera turns on, and let you see the action on your smartphone or computer. If it’s a burglary attempt, you have the opportunity to call the police.
Although most of these products are weatherproof, check and confirm before purchasing. The packaging will say something like, “Suitable for outdoor use” or “Suitable for all-weather conditions”.
Also look for night vision capability. Not all security cameras have that feature.
Hopefully, this will never happen to you. But, there are circumstances – a fire, for example – when you and your family would need to exit through a window.
It pays to be prepared for that eventuality.
Your first step is to determine which windows are safe to use as an exit. There should be at least one on each level.
The windows you select will need to provide enough space for a person to climb through (at least a 20 inch opening). Make sure everyone knows which windows are “safe exit” windows, and how to open them. Keep in mind that windows may have screens, so ensure everyone knows how to remove those as well.
For a second floor window, consider purchasing a portable escape ladder. These are compact and easily stowed in a closet or under a bed. When you need it, it hangs off the sill and expands into a ladder all the way to the ground. It’s not designed for everyday use, but it will get you and your family out!
Rehearsal is a good idea. You want everyone to know how to get to the nearest “safe exit” window – especially in the dark.
Finally, keep your windows in a good state of repair. According to the fire safety experts, windows should open easily for everyone, and should not have anything in front of them that will prevent or delay a quick exit.
You never want to smell smoke in your home and realize there’s a fire. That’s why it is important to be diligent about fire safety. Experts recommend that homeowners be especially careful with the following common household items:
• Portable heaters. Never leave one in a room unattended. Make sure paper and other combustible materials are well away from these units.
• Electronics chargers. We all want our computers, tablets and smartphones to charge quickly. The price we pay for that convenience is chargers that pull in a lot of power, making them very hot. Keep them away from combustible material, as well as other wiring.
• Smoking materials. Be careful with cigarettes, pipes, cigars and other such
items. Bedding and upholstery, which burn slowly and dangerously, are the
source of 75% of smoking-related fires.
• Candles. Never leave candles unattended for any reason. If you must leave the room, extinguish them.
• Flammable liquids. These can include paints, thinners and some brands of
cleaning products. Read labels carefully and follow the safety instructions.
To paraphrase a famous expression: An ounce of prevention is worth not
having to deal with a house fire.
You’re at work when the thought hits you, “Did I lock the door when I left this morning?” You check your smartphone, see that you didn’t, and click the “LOCK” button. Now your house is secure.
That’s home automation for you!
But, is home automation a good idea? That depends on a number of factors.
On the pro side, home automation can improve your quality of life. There are automation products that will adjust heating/cooling depending on whether or not you’re home, make your morning coffee when you get out of bed, and the list goes on and on. These conveniences save you time.
Home automation can also give you peace-of-mind. It’s comforting to be able to remotely see the inside of your home and check that everything’s okay.
Home automation can also make your property more appealing to buyers. Traditionally, buyers like homes with security systems, and will appreciate other automation gizmos, too.
The only downside is the cost. Like most new technology, home automation products can be pricey and may become out-of-date within just a few years.
Thinking about it? Experts advise you to do your research first. Check out product reviews online. Then, if you determine that a particular product is going to benefit you, go for it!
According to a recent study, the average homeowner pays more attention to kitchen stove safety than they do BBQ safety. But, the fact is, a BBQ mishap can be just as devastating. So, it pays to know the latest safety tips.
• Keep BBQs at least 8 feet away from your house.
• Check for venture tube blockages regularly. (Spiders are notorious for spinning webs in there.)
• Clean the grill frequently to prevent flare ups. A grease fire on the grill can continue burning even after you’ve turned the BBQ off.
• Don’t position your BBQ close to foliage, such as under a tree or next to shrubs.
• Never BBQ in an enclosed area, such as a garage, even if the space is well ventilated.
• Avoid leaving the grill unattended, especially when cooking greasy foods such as sausages, beef burgers or steaks.
• Do not let children BBQ.
Finally, make sure your BBQ is turned completely off after use. It’s a good idea to double-check this when making the rounds and locking up your home for the night.
Experts say you should treat a BBQ as you would a camp fire — with care.
When you suffer damage to, (or the loss of), your home or its contents, you expect your insurance company to help you out. And, most do a good job of doing just that.
Still, it’s a good idea to review your policy with your insurance advisor and find out what’s covered and what isn’t. You don’t want to discover that your policy will not cover the cost of repairing the damage caused by a flood in your laundry room.
Pay particular attention to coverage in the case of water damage. Some insurance policies don’t cover floods and sewer backup unless an additional rider is purchased.
Also, check liability limits. Ask your advisor to recommend an appropriate level. Finally, make sure you know exactly how much your home is insured for. Are you covered for the full replacement cost? Are you comfortable with that coverage or the actual cash value?
Having the right insurance gives you peace-of-mind and is an important part of enjoying your home. Keep in mind that experts advise you to review your insurance with your advisor. Ask lots of questions. Make sure you understand your coverage fully.
By the way, if you’re looking for an insurance advisor, I’m well-connected in the local “home” industry. I have a couple recommendations of good, reputable professionals located under my website's "Service Providers" tab.
In almost every movie featuring a house on fire, the actors seem to be able to move around the house and see just fine, while beating back flames with a shirt or coat. Of course, that’s not what happens in real fires.
When there’s fire in a home, there is typically complete darkness (because the power goes out) and a cloud of spreading thick, black smoke makes it difficult to see and breathe.
That’s why knowing how to get out of your house — fast — is crucial.
Experts recommend rehearsing what to do in case there’s a fire. Make sure everyone in the family has an exit plan. Each should know exactly how to get out, including primary and secondary exits, and where the family will meet once safely outside.
Never attempt to take anything with you. It may seem like you have plenty of time to grab a coat or purse, but the characteristics of a fire can change in seconds.
As a failsafe, in case you can’t exit through a door, you should determine in advance which window has the safest exit. Make sure that the window opens easily and everyone knows how to remove the screen or any other obstruction.
Finally, don’t call the fire department from inside your house. Get out first, then make the call.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90% of exposures to poisons occur inside the home. Almost all are preventable, if you follow some simple guidelines.
• Look for the poison label on products you buy. Visually, it’s a skull and cross bones, often (but not always) with the word POISON above it.
• Don’t make assumptions. Sometimes a seemingly innocuous product, like a shampoo, can contain poison or other ingredients which are harmful if swallowed.
• Avoid mixing different cleaning products together. When chemicals are combined, they change. Combining some cleaning products can even create toxic fumes.
• Keep all medication, even the non-prescription kind, out of reach of children. Never leave medicine on the bathroom counter.
• Never use pesticides inside the home unless the product is clearly labeled for indoor use. Then, use only as directed.
• Never use a charcoal grill or barbeque indoors, no matter how well ventilated you think you’ve made it. Doing so can easily cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
One final tip. Pay attention to the expiry date of products, especially cosmetics and cleaning liquids. As chemicals age, they change and can emit harmful fumes.
It’s early in the evening and there’s a knock on the door. You answer and are greeted by an official-looking man who claims he needs to see your utility bill to confirm you’re getting your energy rebate.
Do you let him in?
While he may be legitimate, he may also be using deception to sell you something you don’t want. Here are some suggestions for finding out:
• Ask for a business card. Then, check if it has an address, phone number and website. If the salesperson refuses or just shows you his ID card (which anyone can fake), that’s a red flag.
• Ask for the name of his employer. Sometimes salespeople will say they “represent the phone company”. That doesn’t mean they actually work for it.
• Ask if you can call his company to confirm details before buying. If he refuses, or says the office is closed, shut the door.
• Ask if you can consider the offer and call the office the next day to place your order.
• If you’re really suspicious, ask him to come back later. Then, call the non-emergency police number. Police are aware of common scams in the area.
Most importantly, use your common sense. Door-to-door salespeople can be pretty persuasive, but if something doesn’t seem right to you, trust your gut. Say, “No thanks.”
Of course, if everything checks out with the salesperson, and the offer is a good one, consider taking advantage of it.
You’ve seen fire extinguishers in commercial environments, such as schools, stores and workplaces.
Does it make sense to have one in your
According to the experts, yes. In fact, a fire extinguisher can quickly put out a blaze that would otherwise quickly grow out of control.
There are several types of fire extinguishers that are made especially for residential use. That means they put out the most common fires that occur in the home (Class A, B & K fires), and they are easy to handle and use.
Since most residential fires happen in the kitchen, that’s the best place to keep your extinguisher. Make sure everyone in your household knows where it is and how to use it.
Keep in mind that a home fire extinguisher is meant for small fires that are easy to put out, such as a pan of vegetable oil igniting on the stove. If you find you can’t control the blaze within a few seconds with the extinguisher, get everyone out of the home and call the fire department.
Also, never attempt to fight a major fire yourself. Leave that to the professionals.
No one wants to deal with a burglary. How do you reduce the chances of one happening? Fortunately, burglaries are a well-studied phenomenon — especially by law enforcement. These studies have identified specific things you can do to cut the risk dramatically. Here are some ideas:
• 34% of home break-ins occur through the front door. Experts recommend investing in a door with a top-quality locking mechanism. (The best are those that lock at three points of contact.)
• 50% of burglars will be deterred if your home has some sort of video monitoring system. A thief doesn’t want his face on YouTube!
• Unfortunately, signs and window stickers warning of an alarm system do not deter thieves. However, 62% of burglars will immediately run away when an alarm goes off. Always turn on your alarm system when you’re not home!
• 22% of burglaries occur through a sliding glass door or patio door. Make sure it’s locked and also use a solid metal jammer.
• Some thieves use frequency scanners to gain access to garages. Police recommend changing your remote entry code regularly and putting blinds or curtains on garage windows so thieves can’t see (and be tempted by) any valuables inside.
As you can see, there are many simple things you can do to reduce your chances of a burglary dramatically. The effort is worth it!
More fires start in the kitchen than in any other room. Those fires can be expensive; since even a minor incident, with no injuries, can result in significant damage. That’s why it’s important to keep up with the latest in fire prevention.
The most recent research tells us:
1. Never leave cooking food unattended. Doing so is the number one cause of kitchen fires.
2. Make sure cooking appliances, especially deep fryers, are safety certified by the appropriate government agency.
3. When using oil in a frying pan, always heat slowly at no more than a medium heat setting.
4. Always turn off stove burners and other cooking appliances immediately after cooking.
5. Never attempt to put out a grease fire with water. Use baking soda or a fire extinguisher.
6. Never remove or cover up a smoke detector due to nuisance alarms. The one alarm that isn’t a nuisance may save your life.
Finally, experts say that if you can’t put out a fire immediately, get everyone out of the home and call emergency services.