Save Lives by Checking Smoke Alarms this Month

49370576 - replacing battery in domestic smoke alarmIf a fire broke out in your home, when do you think that would happen? If you guessed “at night,” you’re right. In fact, half of all fire deaths are reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep.

Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. In other words, smoke alarms save lives.

The second week of October is Fire Prevention Week, and it’s a good time to check your smoke alarm. When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead. When was the last time you checked your alarm?

Maybe you removed the battery to quiet the alarm last time your oven started smoking while you cooked dinner. Although smoke alarms can be annoying sometimes, that’s the point — you want it to wake you up in an emergency.

Here are three important steps to take to make sure your alarm is ready to save your family:

1. Change the battery. Many people have heard to change the batteries each time we spring forward or fall back for Daylight Saving Time. That’s coming up Nov. 6, so head to the store to buy some new batteries.

2. Check the date. While you’re on the ladder or stepstool changing the battery, be sure to also check the date on the alarm. Many people don’t know that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. If you have lived in your home fewer than 10 years, you may not know how old the device is. To find out, pull the alarm off the ceiling and look at the back. You’ll see a date of manufacture. If your alarm was manufactured before October 2006, it’s time for a new one.

3. Test the alarm. Once you have fresh batteries and have confirmed the alarm is still within the 10-year mark, it’s time to test it. To test, press and hold the test button. It can take a few seconds to begin, but the loud noise should screech out from the smoke detector while the button is pressed. If there is no sound or the sound is weak and you just put in new batteries, replace the device immediately.

Once you’ve finished checking your smoke alarm, be sure to test your security system, which can also help alert authorities in case of fire. For more information on how to do that, check out our recent blog post on the topic.

Avoid Disaster by Testing Your Home Security System

14260888 - home security alarm monitorYour home security system is armed and keeping your home protected — right? But what if a burglar invades your home while you are on vacation and the alarm goes off, but doesn’t alert police or fire? The loud alarm will scare the burglar into quick departure, but the police will not realize the emergency unless your neighbors call.

Why Test Your Security System

While home security systems and their technology are impressive, anything can happen to an electronic device, especially one that runs 24 hours a day. Lightning and power surges can cause problems. Plus, phone, cable, and Internet service providers are always upgrading their lines and equipment. If you have something replaced or changed, or you see digging in your neighborhood, you might later find your system no longer works.

Some homeowners do not arm their systems each day and may not realize something is wrong. Even if you arm the system, you will not be able to tell if the connection to monitoring services is working. That means you won’t know your system doesn’t work until it’s too late.

How Often to Test

Secur-Tek engineers recommend testing your system each month to make sure everything is in order. In addition, if you have crews working in or around your house, it’s important to test the system before they start and after they are done. Even if your Internet provider is “just replacing your modem,” accidents happen. Newer security systems are programmed to send in a monthly test. If you aren’t sure whether your system does this, ask your Secur-Tek team.

How To Test

To test your home security system, call the central station or the office and ask for a test. They will instruct you to arm the system and open up a door so the alarm goes off. They will then verify the signal was received. The test takes less than 10 minutes.

Other Tips

Security systems provide peace of mind and alert emergency personnel when needed, but only if they work — and only if they are armed. We often hear from clients who forgot to turn on the system because they do not use it frequently. Less frequent use also means more false alarms. Once you install a security system, use it every day to get into the habit. It will seem like part of your routine in no time.

Finally, don’t forget to check the fine print on your security contract. Many security providers with monitoring require a three-year or five-year contract and some automatically renew. Review your contract so you know when it expires and when you need to cancel. Contact your Secur-Tek team with any questions.

The Rundown on Doorbell Cameras

47237659 - close-up of woman pressing the button of a doorbell on a brick wall

Doorbell cameras are growing more popular, popping up in many Triangle neighborhoods. But does that mean it’s the right solution for your home? At Secur-Tek, we’ve received more questions about doorbell cameras in recent weeks, so here is the rundown on how doorbell cameras might aid your home security.

What is a doorbell camera?

A doorbell camera alerts you when someone rings your doorbell. You can speak to visitors through your smartphone from anywhere — just as if you are home. In some cases, the camera will detect motion and send an alert to your phone even if the bell isn’t rung. Some will record video for later use.

Why use a doorbell camera?

Doorbell cameras have many advantages for busy people. Most home burglaries occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when no one is home. Now that Wake County year-round schools are back in session, it’s more likely that your house is sitting empty for at least a few hours each day. These days, we might not know our neighbors well enough to rely on them for monitoring our porches — and that’s if our neighbors are home at all.

Also, about 33 percent of intruders enter a home through the front door. Many would-be burglars will ring a doorbell first, to make sure no one is home. Burglaries are fast, taking between 90 seconds and 12 minutes, according to the FBI. On top of that, burglaries are difficult to solve; only about 13 percent of burglaries are cleared by police.

Pros of a Doorbell Camera

Those burglary statistics are why a doorbell camera adds another layer of security. With one in place you can:

  • Pretend to be home by “answering” the door.
  • Monitor movement on your porch, whether it’s a delivery person or someone suspicious.
  • Monitor housekeepers entering your home or get an alert when your child returns home from school.
  • Lock and unlock the door remotely.

With some models, you can record video footage of someone if he/she enters your home, making it easier to identify suspects.

How to Choose a Doorbell Camera

Not all doorbell cameras are created equal. Like so many things, the type you buy depends on what you need and how much you are willing to spend. Some things to note as you shop:

  • Video Quality – is it HD and how clear is the image?
  • Mounting Hardware – Some consumers have complained about mounting systems for some of the less expensive models. They have been known to break during the installation process. Be sure yours comes with a solid mounting system.
  • Fit – Will it work for your doorframe?
  • Wires – Hardwired or wireless?
  • Night Vision – Some doorbell cameras offer the ability to record night video.
  • On-Demand – Some cameras let you check the video whenever you want, while others only show you video when movement is detected.
  • Phone Compatibility – Some versions don’t work with all mobile carriers and devices. Make sure yours works with what you have.
  • Contracts – Some of the popular models come with monitoring contracts and may require someone else to install them.
  • Appearance – They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.

We sell multiple types of doorbell cameras at Secur-Tek. Talk to us about whether adding one to your home security system is the right move for you.

Secur-Tek Now Offering TiO Home Automation Systems

TiO with TagHome automation is fun. At least, we like to think so! As we work with homeowners in the Apex and Triangle area, we want to make sure we are offering multiple options so they can find the best fit. That’s why Secur-Tek has a new product in our home automation lineup: TiO.

TiO is a home automation platform based locally in nearby Morrisville, N.C. (Support local!) Similar to the Control4 product we already sell, TiO offers systems for controlling cameras, security, window treatments, door locks, AV equipment, TVs, music, and more — all from one app. TiO stands for “turn it on.”

One feature TiO offers is a section called TiO Moods™, which allows you to capture the settings on all connected devices. Once you have created a mood, you click on it and everything will turn to the saved settings. For example, you might want to set the mood you use once you arrive home from work: lights on, music, a change in temperature, open window shades. A different mood might be set up for after dinner: lower lighting, closed shades.

The company offers a similar setup for the entire home, which they call Experiences. Imagine walking in your door after work, clicking one button and having the entire house set up for your evening: lights, temperature, and more.

According to articles on home automation, consumers like home automation, but ease of use is important. TiO’s systems are user friendly and many people find them easier to figure out as they enter the world of home automation. Some other things we like about TiO: it is quick to install and offers a lower-cost option for home automation. The system also works without extra wiring and already adapts to some devices such as Nest thermostats without extra changes. TiO relies on your home WiFi, while Control4 uses a system called Zigbee. There are pros and cons to both ways.

TiO and Control4 both offer fantastic options for home automation. We are pleased to offer our customers another option. Give us a call to learn more about TiO and Control4 so you can compare and decide which system is best for your home.

 

 

 

7 Ways to Tighten Your Home Security for the Holidays

Every year at this time you’ll read stories about the increase in home burglaries while homeowners are away. Studies show that increase is not always fact. Instead, many factors affect burglaries in different communities and when they occur.

21908228_sStill, it’s smart to play it safe with home security around the holidays. After all, you may have extra valuables inside after buying all of your gifts, and you may be absent more often as you attend holiday parties or head to grandmother’s house.

According to FBI data, in 2010, there were an estimated 2.1 million burglaries in the U.S. Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property, an average dollar loss of $2,119 each. In the Raleigh-Cary area, including Franklin, Johnston, and Wake counties, there were 628 burglaries per 100,000 residents in 2010.

Keep your holiday gifts and your home safe this season with a few simple measures:

  • Light your home. The strings of Christmas lights may bring good cheer, but they don’t keep burglars out. Mount exterior lights on your home, out of reach. These can be put on a timer or used as motion detectors. Put indoor lights on timers.
  • Burglars don’t want to spend all day trying to break in. Keep your doors and windows locked and install deadbolts on exterior doors, making it tougher to gain entry.
  • Check your doors. Your lock might be amazing, but if your door is weak, a strong kick will give a burglar easy access. Make sure your door is solid wood or has a solid wood core. You can also consider a fiberglass or metal door.
  • Trim the shrubbery. Don’t make it easy for burglars to hide behind bushes as they work to open a window. Keep the landscaping trimmed so it’s easier for a neighbor to spot the suspicious person standing outside your home.
  • Install a home alarm system. More than 90 percent of burglars say they would avoid a home with an alarm, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Effective alarms don’t just make noise, but alert emergency services. Many insurance companies offer a discount on homeowners insurance if you have an alarm.
  • Hide and lock your valuables. Once inside, a burglar doesn’t want to take too long. He or she knows to check the desk and the bedroom for important documents and jewelry. Put your important papers and expensive items in other locations and hide them well.
  • Heading out of town? Be sure to:
    • Have your mail held, or have a neighbor pick it up.
    • Schedule deliveries. Packages are at risk this time of year sitting on your front porch. Try to time deliveries so that they don’t arrive when you are out of town.
    • Leave blinds in their usual positions so it appears you are home.
    • Ask trustworthy neighbors to keep an eye on your home. Letting a few people know you are gone will help keep them on alert for something amiss.

Questions about home security? Give us a call: (919) 387-1800.

5 Tips to Avoid Home Security Scams

Home security is an important part of your peace of mind. That’s why scammers will often prey on people with fear tactics.

39670032_sHome security telemarketing calls were the second most common telephone scam in 2014 — second only to credit card scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers will call someone and offer a free home security system. The caller will also mention several burglaries in the area, hoping to push the resident into action.

Don’t fall into the home security scam trap. Follow these five tips to find a legitimate home security company to protect your most important asset:

  1. First, if you ever receive such a call, don’t agree to anything right away. This gives you time to make an informed decision.
  2. Keep your guard up. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No business can afford to offer you free home security. To get the free alarm, you may have to sign a long-term and expensive contract for system monitoring.
  3. Research a company before making a large purchase. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company has any complaints against it. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and it’s OK to ask the company for references.
  4. Choose local. Triangle, North Carolina residents have many local options when it comes to home security. Choosing a local company makes it easier for you to check them out. Local business owners know they have a reputation to uphold within the community.
  5. Read any fine print before agreeing to anything. Most home security companies have contracts. Be sure you know what you are signing.

Other Security Scams

Some home security companies will send salespeople door to door. If you already have home security, they may tell you they are there to upgrade your current system or that your security company has gone out of business. Secur-Tek and other legitimate North Carolina security companies will not send another company to your door. Your home security company will inform you by mail if something has changed with your current system.

  • It’s best not to invite salespeople inside your home; it is much harder to get them to leave once inside.
  • Never let such a person into your home without checking his or her identification.
  • If you feel uncomfortable and the person will not leave, call the police.

Questions about home security? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

Four Reasons to Rely on 24-Hour Security Monitoring

Affiliated Central - Monitoring Center

Whether you’re fast asleep in your own bed in Raleigh or away on an international vacation, it’s important to know your home security system will work the way you expect.

One expectation most people have for home or business security systems is a response to the alarm — no matter what time it occurs. This 24-hour security monitoring means authorities will be notified as needed when the alarm is activated at your home or office.

Monitoring isn’t just to alert the police or fire departments. Here are some other advantages to making sure 24-hour monitoring is part of your security system:

  • True Protection — Some homeowners assume a burglar alarm making a lot of noise is enough protection. In truth, like car alarms, home alarms are often ignored by people nearby, who assume it is going off by accident.
  • Other Home Issues – While not as urgent as a fire or break-in, a gas leak can cause serious problems in your home. Monitoring systems can be set up to alert you in case of a gas leak or to let you know your freezer is no longer on — indicating a power outage.
  • Assistance — Monitoring systems can also notify people that you need assistance in case of a fall or other personal accident.
  • Sleeping Easy — Monitoring means someone is always keeping an eye (and ear) on your home or business. Many security system clients say knowing someone is there offers peace of mind, making it easier to sleep at home and while away.

How Monitoring Works
Secur-Tek works with Affiliated Central to monitor your home or business. The team at Affiliated Central is CSAA Five Diamond Certified and uses the most up-to-date technologies including live digital video. The company has installed a redundancy system for its telephone and automation, ensuring dependability.

Secur-Tek, Inc. does not require a long-term monitoring contract when you have your home or business connected to our monitoring services.

While most security companies offer 24-hour monitoring, some companies may consider it an add-on feature. When contacting a security company to keep your home or business safe, be sure to confirm you are receiving the service you deserve.

KEEP YOUR CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM WORKING FOR YOU!

Woman sneezingDoes the mere thought of Spring leave you with a running nose and the sniffles?  After that horrible, cold Winter, everyone is excited about the Spring season with its beautiful flowers, yet for those of us with seasonal allergies along with all of that beauty, the itching nose and watering eyes are sure to follow.

You may think you are safe staying inside. You might even reason you are safe from that pesky pollen indoors, right? Guess what? You’re still at risk. The pollen spores can travel through the screens, in fact when you come in from outdoors, tiny bits of pollen can travel inside with you on your clothes and then onto your furniture and linens. That is why it is so important to keep your Dirt Devil Central Vacuum in optimum working order and at maximum capacity.

The Benefits of your Dirt Devil Central Vacuum:

  • Vacuumed dirt, allergens and odors are removed 100% of the time
  • A Dirt Devil® Central Vacuum extends the life of carpets and furnishings
  • Using the central vacuum regularly improves your indoor air quality
  • Having the most well-known brand of central vacuum system (Dirt Devil) adds resale value to your home

Here is how to keep your Dirt Devil Central Vacuum doing it’s job, working for YOU

Be diligent about replacing your filters once a year, as suggested by Dirt Devil and schedule your routine service calls. The service call includes not only replacing the filter, as needed, but also cleaning the Dirt Devil Central Vacuum piping system with the Wincor Tornado cleaning cloths.

Make a Plan:

  1. Empty the canister of your Dirt Devil Central Vacuum system when it’s half-full.
  2. Check your filter regularly – every time you empty your canister.
  3. Mark it on your calendar and schedule your Dirt Devil Central Vacuum service today!

Plan to enjoy your Spring season.  Breathe easy knowing the Dirt Devil Central Vacuum system is working at optimum capacity for YOU.

Hurry – schedule your spring cleaning service with Secur-Tek by June 30, 2015 and receive a $20 discount on the normal service fee.

What Is Sonos?

Sonos 2What Is Sonos?

Sonos is a wireless audio system of HiFi speakers and components that lets you listen to music in any room with no skips, delays, or drops. You place the speakers throughout your house and then use the Sonos app to combine and access your music collection. Individual songs can be listened to on each speaker or the whole system can play the same song.

Sonos works with a variety of music sources. Wherever you like to get your audio—iTunes, podcasts, radio stations, Spotify, or Pandora—you can find it and file it into a dedicated local Sonos network through wireless or Ethernet connections and stream it to any Sonos device on the network. The Sonos system creates a dedicated path for playing audio which means you get smoother playback.

The Sonos system can be controlled by PC or Mac desktop applications, or apps for iOS or Android. Having a computer-based system means that you can customize all the playlists and music you want to hear. It’s like having an iPod in every room of your house that plays all the music you like—with great quality.

How It Works

The Sonos system consists of Zoneplayers and Controllers. “Zoneplayer” is the Sonos name for an element which outputs audio either via digital or analog connections or via speakers. Zoneplayers can be set up through wired or wireless connections. The Controller is the Mac/PC or mobile phone that runs the Sonos app.

If you have a home where WiFi doesn’t reach everywhere, you can use the Sonos BRIDGE to extend the range of your Sonos network. The BRIDGE also creates a dedicated wireless network for your Sonos system. The BRIDGE plugs into your router with an Ethernet cable. If you’re in an environment where the WiFi has performance challenges, you can use a BOOST—it’s like a super-charged BRIDGE.

For speakers like the PLAY:1, PLAY:2, or PLAY:3 you can simply plug them into the power outlet and they will wirelessly connect to your existing WiFi network or your dedicated Sonos network (if you have the BRIDGE or BOOST).

Place your speakers in the rooms where you want to listen to music. Then download and install a Sonos Controller app. You can access your entire music collection from anywhere in your house with the Controller. Follow the quick set-up guide that comes with the system and simply tell the Sonos app where the Zoneplayers and music library are located.

Last, but not least: play music! You can use any Sonos Controller to make music selections. Choose a music source from the Sonos music menu on a handheld controller, or from the MUSIC pane if you’re using the Sonos Controller App for Mac or PC.

You can tell the system to play the same thing on every stereo that’s linked to it or you can have a different playlist or source going in every room of the house.

Once you’ve got your system set up, you can easily add more Sonos products whenever you want. Only one part of the Sonos system needs to be linked with your home network; the other components link together directly. Since the Zoneplayers each transmit individually, each player you add increases the range of the Sonos network.

Why it’s Great

The main benefit of the Sonos system is that it delivers HiFi audio while really simplifying wireless streaming. The Sonos app lets you easily control the system and access a variety of music sources. There’s no need to link your phone with any of the individual speakers—all the speakers are controllable through the same app, no matter where in the house they’re located. Sonos uses their years of wireless networking know-how to make sure your music is in perfect sync and skip-free. It’s also super easy to get it going and new features are constantly being developed that work even with some of the oldest components.

Contact Secur-Tek today to find out more about the benefits of Sonos in your home.

Security Tips at Christmas

Santa Holding Stack of GiftsIt’s the most wonderful time of the year with the kids jingle belling and friends coming to call. There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, presents to be buying, and lots of fun for all!

But, a word to the wise: Even though you may be like most people who are enjoying the holly jolliness of the season, don’t get so lost in the festivities that you forget some of the harsh realities of the world in which we live.

It’s unfortunate that there are folks out there who will and do take advantage of other people’s situations, including their distractions. So be mindful of what’s around you and what can possibly happen.

  • Your perfectly positioned beautifully decorated Christmas tree with all its brightly colored lights and exquisitely wrapped presents underneath can draw compliments as well as the attention of burglars. In recent years, there have been reports of burglaries during the holiday season. You don’t want to come home from an outing to find that someone has broken into your home and made off with all your gifts.
  • Speaking of Christmas decorations, if you put up outdoor decorations use an outdoor outlet in lieu of pulling cords through a slightly opened window for a power source. Burglars will find the easiest access to your home, and a cracked window is simply too hard to resist.
  • When out shopping all the attractive sales, try not to laden the backseat of your vehicle with all your goodies. This can be a big temptation to passersby.
  • If you’re an online shopper, you still need to be cautious with your packages. Be wary of deliveries left at your door. This is another invitation to passersby to casually walk up and take a peek or take the entire package. Leave instructions for the deliveries to be dropped off at a time when you or a neighbor will be home to receive them.
  • In this modern age of social media, refrain from “checking in” while you’re out and about. This alerts friends and possibly friends of friends that you’re not home. Also refrain from posting news of extravagant purchases… also a broadcast to people and an invitation for the criminal elements in your extended circle.

Even though there are realities to consider, it is the holiday season and it is a time for joy, peace, love and togetherness. Enjoy the season but be mindful at the same time.

If you’d like some professional help with securing your home and assets during the holidays and throughout the year, there are security companies that offer a variety of options, from the simple to the complex. Secur-Tek is one of those companies and a consultation is always complimentary. Contact us at 919-387-1800.