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Security Blog

Stay Safe this Memorial Day

memorial-day

The upcoming Memorial Day holiday marks the unofficial start of summer. The long weekend presents plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy the late spring weather, along with lots of food and the company of good friends. As always, though, safety should be a priority. It’s great to enjoy Memorial Day weekend, but it’s also good to keep the risks of danger to a minimum.

Here is a quick list of tips for a safe Memorial Day celebration. Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Kitchen and Grilling Safety

Memorial Day weekend is all about great spring and summer foods we don’t get to enjoy over the winter. That means a lot of work in the kitchen along with firing up the grill for perhaps the first time in months. Use common sense when cooking; here are some suggestions:

  • In the kitchen, never leave food cooking on the stove unattended. Nearly half of all house fires start in the kitchen.
  • When using a charcoal or gas grill, NEVER grill indoors. Grill in an outdoor area with plenty of ventilation.
  • Grills should always be attended, just like stoves and ovens.
  • Both indoors and out, keep knives and other sharp cooking utensils out of reach of children.
  • Children should also be kept away from high traffic areas in the kitchen.
  • When grilling with charcoal, NEVER add lighter fluid once the charcoal is burning.

Safety Around the Pool

If you have a swimming pool, don’t forget how easy it is for accidents to occur – accidents that could result in serious injury or death. All pool owners should remember the following:

  • Access to the pool should be controlled with fencing and a locked gate.
  • Children should never be allowed to swim except under the supervision of adults.
  • Children should never be sent to the pool alone.
  • Young swimmers with little experience should wear some sort of buoyancy device in the water.
  • Installing a pool alarm is a good idea if you have young children in the home.
  • Pool lighting should be utilized (if you have it) at night for maximum safety.

Safety When Traveling

There are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself and your property safe if you’re traveling during the long weekend:

  • NEVER drive distracted. Turn off the cell phone and put it somewhere out of reach until you get to your destination.
  • Be very cautious with GPS devices; you don’t want to be distracted by them either.
  • Always use extreme caution when driving through work zones.
  • Use extra caution when driving in inclement weather, including reducing your speed.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep before driving. Let someone else do the driving if you’re tired.

Our last tip deals directly with keeping your property safe while you are away: Make sure your home is locked and secured before you leave. If you don’t already have them, think about installing heavy-duty deadbolt locks and window locks. A monitored home security system from Monitronics is also a good idea. And as always, be sure to have a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers so they don’t stack up at the front door.

We wish you and your family well this Memorial Day weekend. Get out there and enjoy the unofficial start of summer – just do it safely.

An Electric Shock When You Spend Too Much? Sure, There’s an App for That

money-shock

Monitronics offers a lot for homeowners who are looking for the latest home automation technology. If you want state-of-the-art video surveillance cameras, door locks, lights, thermostats, garage doors or other devices, Monitronics authorized dealers are the experts.

But when it comes to the “Internet of Things,” or “IoT,” we’re going to draw the line at giving you an electric shock or turning down the heat whenever your finances get out of hand.

Intelligent Environments, a digital banking company based in the United Kingdom, has developed Interact® IoT, an account that (to put it mildly) discourages overspending.

Psychology 101

The concept is straight out of Pavlov’s psychological playbook: Negative behaviors produce negative consequences.

  • Customers create an account and set up a self-determined limit for their credit card or bank account.
  • They wear a wrist device called a “Pavlok” that is capable of delivering a mild electric shock.
  • When the account holder comes near their limit, the first warning comes via smartphone notification.
  • If the limit is exceeded, Pavlok delivers the news with a short, sharp shock.

Of course, there’s an option for those who aren’t into mild pain. Interact IoT also works with Nest thermostats. Instead of delivering short-term discomfort through a wearable device, Interact can spread it out over a longer period by lowering a Nest thermostat to a user-defined limit. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient economy, you can save about 3 percent on your heating bill for every degree that you lower your thermostat.

Sometimes pain is a good thing

The account isn’t as crazy as it sounds. In a company press release, Managing Director David Webber said that with so many cashless payment methods available, it’s easy to lose track of spending. Company research showed that only a third of 18- to 24-year-olds feel their banks provide them with necessary digital budgeting tools, and 22 percent said they would be less likely to go into debt if their bank provided them with the right resources.

So Interact IoT was born. “This means customers can now get complete control and oversight of their finances without having to lift a finger,” Webber said. “Both Pavlok and Nest Thermostat are opt-in services, so customers can decide whether to switch them on or not. However, with the Pavlok integration, users have told us they love it. They think it’s much better to get a little shock now instead of a nasty one later.”

As for us, Monitronics is going to stay out of the banking business and stick to what we know best: home automation that makes your life safer, easier and – thankfully – more pleasant.

How a Fire Progresses Through a Home

house-fire

Everybody is familiar with the saying “Don’t play with fire.” The point is simple: Any kind of fire is dangerous because things can quickly spiral out of control. That is especially true for a house fire that grows large enough to destroy someone’s home in minutes.

Monitronics offers 24-hour monitoring for fire and smoke, along with quick response in the event of an alarm. We believe that quick detection and reporting of fires is critical in minimizing damage, especially when you understand how fire progresses through a home.

With the help of the This Old House website, we have put together the following scenario:

Step #1: Ignition

Every house fire starts with ignition. One of the most common sources of ignition is the stove. Some 44 percent of all house fires start because food is left unattended while cooking. Grease or oil can quickly reach a flash point and ignite.

Step #2: Flare-Up

Within seconds of ignition, flames can flare up as a result of reaching other combustible materials close by. In the event of a kitchen fire, cooking utensils and flammable oils on countertops make good fuel. An electrical fire in the living room can easily feed on furniture and drapes. The availability of fuel determines how quickly flare-up occurs.

Step #3: Additional Spread

The best chances of stopping a small fire from becoming an inferno is to extinguish it in the ignition stage or in the early stages of flare-up. Once flames begin spreading across a room, however, any hope of extinguishing them without the help of the fire department is minimal at best. Flames will spread quickly by consuming everything in their path, including kitchen cupboards, wooden shelving, etc.

At this point, the room where the fire is located is undoubtedly filled with smoke. That smoke travels through the rest of the house along with toxic chemicals, particulates and heat.

Step #4: Increased Heat and Gas

As the quickly progressing fire consumes more fuel in the room, it also produces excess heat and gas. Since heat and gas seek ventilation through openings such as doorways and stairwells, and can escape rapidly enough to pull flames as well, the fire can quickly move from room to room. Meanwhile, the growth of the fire produces more heat that is transferred to furniture, carpets, and just about everything else in the house.

Step #5: Auto-Ignition

The scariest and most dangerous part of a house fire is auto-ignition, which occurs when objects inside the home reach high enough temperatures to spontaneously combust without any contact with flames. It only takes minutes from the start of a house fire for internal temperatures to reach this dangerous point.

When spontaneous combustion begins, there is very little hope of saving the structure. Walls begin to buckle, floors start to collapse, and the roof becomes unstable. Windows will also blow out if they have not already done so. It is all firefighters can do to keep flames contained to the property at hand.

It doesn’t take long for a small electrical or cooking fire to become a major inferno. One important way you can protect yourself is by installing a home security system with fire monitoring from Monitronics. Your smoke detectors can warn you to get out of the house, and also send an alarm that will alert our personnel to notify the fire department.

Sources:

  • This Old House — http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20647406,00.html

The First Five Minutes Are Critical in a House Fire

fire-alarm

Fire experts generally agree that the extent of damage and personal injuries in any house fire can be determined by what happens immediately after the fire starts, especially in the first five minutes. What happens in the home and with response from the local fire department during this time could make the difference between minimizing the consequences of a fire and facing a tragedy when the flames are finally extinguished. It’s important to understand these first five minutes.

The First Five Minutes at Home

The biggest enemy to occupants of a burning house is smoke. When you stop and consider how many flammable objects are found in the average home, just one small flame can quickly start burning drapes or furniture, creating toxic smoke that can quickly become overwhelming. Indeed, more injuries and deaths during a house fire are caused by smoke inhalation rather than from the flames themselves.

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes for a house to fill with toxic smoke. In a very short amount of time, occupants can be rendered unconscious as fire rages around them. By the way, this is why smoke detectors are so important in homes. People need to be made aware of fire as quickly as possible to avoid being overcome by smoke.

The First Five Minutes for the Fire Department

The first few minutes of the house fire are critical to first responders as well. They need to be able to get to the scene as quickly as possible. The sooner they get there, the greater their chances of minimizing personal injuries and property damage.

On scene, firefighters only have a short amount of time to assess the situation and come up with a plan of action. They need to know whether there are occupants in the home, where the fire is most out of control, how close the fire is to overwhelming neighboring properties, and so much more. It takes a lot of experience and knowledge to assess fire scenes quickly.

Recognition and Notification Are Imperative

It’s clear that recognition and notification are critical in the event of a house fire. Recognizing that a fire is burning is probably the single most important factor in minimizing the damage. Once again, this is why smoke detectors are so important.

Consider an electrical fire that might start in the basement of your home while you are folding laundry in a second-floor bedroom. With two floors below you, the fire could quickly get out of control before you know anything is wrong. Those critical few minutes could pass with no recognition on your part, leaving you with a critical situation.

Monitronics addresses both recognition and notification through the fire monitoring that goes hand-in-hand with our wireless security systems. Customers with fire monitoring receive several smoke detectors installed in strategic places around the home. We can install as many as a customer needs.

A Monitronics home security system from a company in our authorized dealer network can make a huge difference in the event of fire. At the first sign of a potential fire, our smoke alarm triggers an alert to our remote monitoring center. Trained personnel are on duty around the clock, and first responders can be notified quickly when necessary.

Survey Suggests Home Automation Discounts on Home Insurance

We’re always reminding Monitronics customers that most home insurance companies offer discounts to homeowners with security systems. But with the expansion of home automation, the impact on rates may soon extend beyond home security.

The Aite Group, an independent research and advisory firm, released “The Smart Home: Opportunities for Insurers” earlier this year. The study was a result of more than 100 discussions with insurers and vendors, including IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, SAP and Lexis/Nexis. Researcher Gwenn Bézard concluded that forward-thinking insurers can do more to capitalize on smart-home technology than just offer discounts only for home security.

Writing in his blog, Bézard said burglaries certainly have a major impact on insurance claims, with more than $1 billion in claims in 2014 alone. But it’s time for insurers to consider the financial impact of other events. While consumers are typically focused on intrusion and burglaries, Bézard said insurers also have a great deal at stake with billions of dollars in claims annually for fire, smoke, water leaks and freezing pipes. Health insurers also feel the impact; Bézard noted that falls alone cost $100 billion annually in medical claims.

Home automation technology has huge benefits for consumers who can be better prepared for a wide range of home emergencies. But Bézard believes that insurers also have a window of opportunity to create new services and products that will be both attractive and valuable to customers. “Savvy insurers that adapt to the new dynamic have a historic opportunity to become far more relevant than they are today,” he said.

That’s why some insurers are expanding discounts beyond home security into other smart-home devices. One example is American Family Insurance, which is offering a discount to encourage the use of devices like smart thermostats and water-leak detectors, as well as security systems.

Julie Schraubroeck, product and field marketing director for American Family, told claimsjournal.com that the insurer wants to do more than just help customers recover from accidents and tragedies.

“We want to partner with them to take a more proactive role in protecting the things they value,” Schaubroeck said. “By using these devices, they are demonstrating a commitment to potentially preventing these damaging events, and we want to reward them for practicing these safe habits.”

Of course, we focus on giving our customers access to a wide selection of home automation and monitoring, including fire/smoke, water and leaks, smart thermostats, and medical alert devices such as pendants or wrist wearables. Whether or not you’re a customer, you can learn more by visiting the home automation page on our website.

The extra protection offered by home automation is good for homeowners. If more insurers get on board, additional savings on monthly premiums would be even better.