Monthly Archives: June 2010

Fireworks Safety Tips for the 4th of July

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 30,100 fires are caused by fireworks each year. Here are some safety tips from Security Choice, as reported in PR Web.

1. Obey all laws:  Consult local and state laws about fireworks and follow them.  Only buy legal fireworks from reliable, licensed sellers.  The packaging should include the manufacturer’s name and address. Follow all instructions labeled on the fireworks.  Never try to make homemade fireworks or combine existing ones.

2. Store properly:  Transport and keep fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children.  Also follow any other storage directions on packaging.

3. Keep kids away:  Don’t let kids play with or get near fireworks, including sparklers.  These hand-held favors can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt gold.

4. Have water on hand:  Make sure to always have a bucket of water or functioning hose nearby to use in case of accidental fires.

5. Dispose properly:  Don’t risk setting off smoke sensors that come with some home alarm systems by placing smoking fireworks in a trash can indoors.  Wait until used fireworks have cooled and soak them in a bucket of water before throwing them in a trash can.

Home Security Checklist

Home security checklists are easy to get your hands on.  Most local police departments offer such lists, and of course with the internet so readily available, such information is only a click away.

The following is a summary of a home security check list from security specialist Neil Huotari, as posted in the Star Tribune.   It focuses on family Planning –

* Do your children know how to make emergency phone calls to 9-1-1, the fire department, a neighbor, or you, and know about which agency is responsible for each emergency type?

* Do you check your doors and windows each time before you leave your home to ensure they are closed and locked?

* Do you keep your doors and windows locked when you are home?

* Do you have a family security plan to deal with a solicitor, peddler or salesperson coming to your door trying to sell you something you don’t want?

* When away from home do you leave your window shades or blinds open?

* When your home is not occupied in the evening hours after dark, do you have lights which are controlled by timers?

* If you have an alarm system, is it armed every time your residence is unoccupied?

Home Alone tips for Kids from the Red Cross

American Red Cross instructor Donna Giove coaches kids to handle scenarios that might arise when they’re home alone.  Giove teaches classes on staying home alone across the Chicago region.  Here are some of her recommendations, as published in the Chicago Tribune.

Q – What if someone knocks?

A – Don’t open the door, and don’t fall for the line of ‘I need help.’ Ask them to wait down the street or come back in a half hour when an adult is available.

Q – What if someone calls?

A – If you have caller ID, use it. Don’t answer calls unless it is from a relative. Or, if you do answer the phone, say “he or she is not available right now, can I take a message?”

Q – What if the power goes out?

A – Don’t light a candle. Know where the flashlights are and find one.

Q – What about going outside to play?

A – This falls under family rules. In a busy environment where kids play in public view, heading outside might not be a good idea. A backyard might offer more security. Still, the risk factor increases exponentially outdoors.

Photo courtesy of – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Build a Moat around Your Castle

Near Houston, Texas in the town of Woodlands law enforcement officials are suggesting residents build a moat around their castle.

“To me, the gators and piranhas are you and your neighbors,” said Marian Leck, security manager for The Woodlands Township.

The Woodlands Township, which has seen an uptick in crime, recently offered tips on how residents can better protect their homes and properties.

As the Ultimate Woodlands indicates, among the recommendations were adding lighting, managing landscaping, using locks and alarm systems, hiding valuables and getting to know your neighbors.

Beth Kuhles writes,

While Capt. Andy Eason of District 6 of The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said most of the increase is due to population growth in the county and a poor economy, many residents are leaving their homes and cars open to thieves with unlocked doors and garages.  Some resident also leave their garage door opener in their cars, providing an easy entry for criminals into their homes.

To combat the upward trend in crime, police suggest that resident take a tour around the outside of their homes and properties to identify the areas where they may be vulnerable to crime.  Lighting is a key deterrent, but keep in mind homes should have lighting that “casts a shadow.”

Alarms are another effective tool, but residents need to understand the operation of their system to prevent the high number of false alarms in the community.

Tips for Better Home Security

In New Jersey, Hoboken Police are offering up tips this summertime to keep you and your home safe.

“Burglary is an opportunistic crime,” said Hoboken Police Chief Anthony Falco in a press release.  “A building that appears unoccupied and unsecured is far more likely to be targeted than one that is properly secured.”

Falco has the following suggestions.

Address:  Make sure that your address is visible and can be read from the street, especially at night.

Lighting:  Turning interior lamps on with a timer is inexpensive, and can give the illusion of an occupied household.  External lighting is also important.  A transistor radio left playing when away may also confuse burglars, or better yet, a Fake TV Burglar Deterrent.

Hiding keys:  An extra key hidden in a secret location should always be avoided. If you can get in, so can a burglar.

Entry Doors:  Exterior doors should always be secure with bells located on the exterior of the building.

Use Locks:  An unlocked lock is the same as having no lock at all. All residents should habitually lock the home, and close and lock garage doors when away or at night.

Air Conditioners:  Air conditioners must be firmly secured to window frames so that burglars cannot simply push the unit in to gain access.

Source – The Jersey Journal

The Sounds of Typing can be Decoded

The Economist had an interesting article not that long ago about how spies, or anyone with the know-how, can decipher what you are typing just by honing in on the sounds of the clicks.  That’s right – simply by analyzing audio recordings of keyboard clatter, computer scientists can now reconstruct an accurate transcript of what was typed–including passwords.  And in contrast with many types of computer espionage, the process is simple, requiring only a cheap microphone and a desktop computer.

The article explains that such snooping is possible because each key produces a characteristic click, shaped by its position on the keyboard, hand position, and type of keyboard used.  But past attempts to decipher keyboard sounds were only modestly successful, requiring a training session in which the computer matched a known transcript to an audio recording of each key being struck.  Thus schooled, the software could still identify only 80% of the characters in a different transcript of the same typist on the same machine.  Furthermore, each new typist or keyboard required a fresh transcript and training session, limiting the method’s appeal to would-be hackers.

Jenna Bush Hager’s Bikes Stolen from her South Baltimore home

The lesson here – not even the former first daughter is immune to theft.  Jenna Bush Hager and her husband were the victims of a burglary Friday afternoon when two Trek mountain bikes worth $3,500 were stolen from the rear garage of their home in South Baltimore. 

“There is no intelligence to suggest that this residence was targeted because of who owns it and who lives there,” Baltimore city police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told The Baltimore Sun.

Officers responded to a burglar alarm at their row house at 1:22 p.m., but left when they didn’t find signs of an attempted break-in.  The Hagers, who were out of town at the time, had a neighbor check things out and specifically asked to check on the bikes.  The neighbor found the bikes to be missing and called the police. 

Guglielmi said officers found two small pry marks on a rear garage door that opens to an alley, which was secured but not deadbolted.  Police said it’s possible the burglars closed the door behind them and that it locked.

Police describe the missing bikes as a men’s black and red Trek Fuel-style with dual suspension worth $2,500, and a female blue Trek worth $1,000.  Police reported nothing else was taken and the burglars did not get into the home.

Florida Burglars used Canoe to Get Around

In Florida, investigators say a pair of thieves is responsible for stealing a heck of a lot of loot off several boats in southern Martin County over the past month.  Detectives say the burglars used a canoe to get from one crime scene to the next.

Ricky Morales and Ronald Rugg are charged with burglary and grand theft.  Among the stolen items are rods and reels, flat screen televisions, stereo speakers, and expensive marine GPS units. 

“A lot of people haven’t been able to go fishing the last couple of weeks,” Captain Mike McKinley with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office tells the local NBC affiliate WPTV. 

McKinley says a canoe provided a quiet getaway. 

“To get around canals and back water areas which is very quiet and low silhouette in water, very difficult to spot,” said Captain McKinley.

The pair is accused of hitting at least three places along the Loxahatchee River including a shed off Loxahatchee River Road.  One man who lives on that property said the suspects took his commercial fishing gear before being scared off by the floodlights.

Investigators tracked Morales and Rugg down through Craig’s List, EBay Palm Beach County pawn shops. 

So far, at least 10-thousand dollars in stolen property has been recovered.

ATM & Debit Card Safety Tips

The month of June is ATM and Debit Card Safety Awareness Month.  In honor of that, here are some safety tips from PULSE.

 * Keep your PIN a secret: Memorize your personal identification number (PIN), never write it on your card or store it with your card. Never let someone else enter your PIN for you. Many security experts recommend changing your PIN often and using different PINs for different accounts. These are steps that make it more difficult for criminals to use your card if it’s lost or stolen.

 * Never allow a cashier or any other person to enter your PIN for you, even if they are assisting you with the transaction.

* Block the view of others when using an ATM or PIN debit terminal.

* Be certain your ATM or debit transaction is complete and review your receipt before leaving.

* If you receive cash back from a transaction, put it away before leaving.

* When using an outdoor ATM or debit terminal, such as a gas station, always observe your surroundings before making a transaction.

* When using an outdoor terminal, if anyone or anything appears to be suspicious, leave the area at once.

* If an ATM appears to have any attachments or alterations to the card slot or keypad, do not use it; report the tampering to the ATM owner immediately.

Home Burglary Prevention Tips

The FBI reports that more burglaries occur during the summer months than any other time of year.  Patrick Fiel, a public safety advisor for ADT, in a PRNewswire press release said, “There are a few simple, yet important, steps homeowners can take to make their homes less of a target.”  To help secure your property, Fiel recommends the following:

* Secure your garage.  Garages can provide intruders with easy access to your home.  If you have an automatic garage door opener, make sure you protect the remote control and never leave it visible in your car.  Also, be sure to lock the door that leads from your garage to your home.

* Equip your home with strong doors and locks.  Exterior doors should be made of steel, other metals or solid wood, which are able to withstand more of an impact than hollow-core doors.  Deadbolt locks offer the best protection from picking and prying.  Always make sure to lock your doors and windows.

* Never hide keys around the exterior of your home.  Thieves look in mailboxes, under doormats and above doorways for keys.  If you will be out of town on vacation, leave emergency house keys with a trusted friend or neighbor.

* Consider a burglar alarm system.  A recent Rutgers University study found that alarm systems are an effective deterrent, making a home less attractive to intruders.  Make sure your burglar alarm system includes a loud inside alarm, detectors at all exterior doors, and motion sensors.