Security Reminders for New Home Buyers

This is the time of year when families look into options for new homes and neighborhoods. This is a life-changingdecision – you and your family want to live somewhere comfortable, convenient and safe. With all the things to think about when considering a move, safety and security arenear the top of the priority list. Below we have outlined a few items to consider when assessing whether a neighborhood and home is the right fit for you and your family.

Thoroughly check out the neighborhood:

The feel and safety of the neighborhood is a key consideration when buying a home. You can always change and adjust the security features of the home itself, but you can’t control or change the neighborhood environment. Take the time to find out local area crime rates – info on the most recent crime activity and break-insisassessable online. Sex offender registry and public/police records are also easily accessed. Noting the proximity to Fire, Police and Rescue stations helps in figuring response times.

It can often be interesting and enlightening to stop by or call the local Police station to get additional information on the particular area you are considering.

In addition, an area with friendly neighbors who get to know each other and take pride in their neighborhood offers a sense of security. If you are seriously considering a home, knock on a potential neighbor’s door, introduce yourself and get their perspective on the safety, friendliness and police presence in the area. Neighbors can have a strong influence on the happiness and well-being of your family.

Take special note of the lighting and landscaping:

Often times we look at a property during the day or early evening. Take time to check outthe streets and the home you are considering late at night or early morning and notice if there isadequate street and sidewalk lighting. Check to see how well the entry, walkways and window areas are lit. Some of these things you can fix quite easily (like adding motion sensor lighting) but some are much more of a challenge.

Landscaping can really enhance the image of your home; it also affects the safety of the home. Overgrown or poorly placed bushes can block out lighting and give potential burglars a perfect cover from being noticed, especially when located near doors or windows.

Check doors and windows:

This may seem obvious, but the doors to the exterior need to be carefully inspected. They should be built out of metal or with solid wood cores and have deadbolts. Sometimes the most aestheticallypleasing decorator doors offer the least amount of safety from intrusion. Glass panels in or next to the doors offer burglar’s easy access.  Replacing the external doors is doable but take the cost of replacement into consideration when thinking through your offer as this is a fairly expensive item. Note, replacing security sub-par doors should be done before occupancy for ease of mind and convenience.

Mechanical systems and appliances:

These items directly impact the safety of the home and should be thoroughly inspected before deciding on purchasing a home. A faulty electrical system puts your home at risk for fires. Gas appliances or fireplaces that don’t function properly increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Get a home inspection to verify that all mechanical systems meet current building codes and function properly.

Home and property security system:

Having a home and property security system can help give you peace of mind when moving to a new area and home. If a system is already installed, you can have it upgraded and activated as soon as you move in. Make sure to check out the window and door sensors for proper functioning. Test the location of the motion sensors to ensurethey are properly aimed and positioned for maximum benefit. Security systems are an economical and effective method for ensuring your new residence will offer you the safety and security your family deserves.

 

If you have moved into a new home or will be moving into one soon, give us a call at 919-387-1800 to evaluate your home security and give you a quote on installing, upgrading or monitoring.

 

 

Protecting Pollinators and Securing NC’s Agricultural Future

The Butterfly Highway 

You have probably heard about how important pollinators are to our state, country and the world. We at Secur-Tek Inc. support the Butterfly Highway – an initiative that works to protect these delicate insects that are a critical part of our ecosystem.  

Did you know?

  • North Carolina has a $78 billion agriculture economy that relies on pollinators for crops such as squash, apples, blueberries and strawberries.
  • Global food crops are dependent on pollinators and more than 70% of these crops either require or have higher production because of a pollinator insect visit.
  • There are 174 species of butterflies in NC and approximately 1200 moth species.
  • Monarch butterflies journey through NC during both their spring and fall migrations. Because of the threats to pollinator habitats, there has been a loss of important nectar plants as well as a significant loss in the Monarch’s host plant milkweed, which can affect their ability to fly the long distances as a part of migration
  • There are 13 known bumblebee species in NC; several are threatened with extinction. 

These are only a few facts listed on the North Carolina Wildlife Federation website. Upon review, it becomes immediately clear how important it is to protect these critical insects’ habitat.

In response to this growing need, the Butterfly Highway project was initiated and nurtured by Angel Hjarding in Charlotte, NC and is now a key part of the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s programs.

“We began the Butterfly Highway project with several Charlotte communities that wanted to beautify their environment through planting gardens. Through the project, the communities transformed community gardens, backyard gardens, public spaces and park fragments into new pollinator and wildlife habitats,” said Angel Hjarding. “As we expand this effort statewide, we’ll start to fill in the map and see the connectivity of the Butterfly Highway from the mountains to the coast.”

Would you like to support the Butterfly highway initiative?

There are many ways to become involved. Either through being a NC Wildlife Federation member, donor, volunteer or creating a butterfly/bee space in your community or home. It is easy, fun, beautiful and the responsible thing to do.

For example, to become a designated Butterfly Highway pollinator garden, you only need the following elements:

 Size: No minimum size required as long as the appropriate plants and resources are provided. Even an apartment balcony can provide habitat for pollinators.

Sun: Pollinators and the plants that support them need lots of sun. Your garden should receive at least 6 hours of sun per day.

Soil and water: Various plants have different soil and water needs. See our recommended native plant list for appropriate plants for your habitat type. Most pollinators get the water they need from nectar, but butterflies do love puddling in a butterfly spa!

Shelter: Plants should be planted close together, but not crowded, to provide protection from pests and predators.

Place to raise young: Native bees typically build their nests in the ground and require open patches of soil. Leave space in your garden free of mulch and debris to provide this essential bee nesting habitat. Butterflies lay their eggs on trees and herbaceous plants.

Food source: Nectar plants provide an essential food source for butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. It is important to provide plants that bloom from early spring to late fall to provide adequate food for breeding and migration. It is also recommended to provide a variety of plants in different colors, shapes and heights that may be attractive to a diversity of pollinators. Your garden should include at least 3 nectar plants that are native to your region. See a list of recommended plants.

Sustainable gardening practices: Many pollinators are insects and are vulnerable to the effects of insecticides. It is recommended to use organic gardening practices to reduce these effects.

If you are interested in learning more about NCWF click here: http://ncwf.org/about/

For more information about creating your own butterfly highway habitat:  Click here.

 

 

Cellular Communicator – What Is It and Do I Need One?

Monitored alarm systems need to communicate alarm signals to a monitoring response center 24/7. Traditionally this was done with a standard wire line home phone. However, over the past several years, cellular technology has progressed to the point where it is more secure than that of the traditional wire line. Additionally, it is more reliable than a digital Internet phone service that requires constant power and is susceptible to network outages and router rests.

Cellular monitoring works by installing a “cellular chip” or “module” into the Control Panel of the alarm system. This cellular device acts as the communicator between your alarm system and the monitoring station – that is why it is called a cellular communicator.

Cellular communicators function much like a cell phone that is specifically dedicated to your security system by communicating via cellular network data channels. In essence, the cellular communicator installed into the Control Panel of your alarm system acts as a connection to the Internet or “outside world”. Because of this, anytime you send a signal or command from your phone or other devices, it uses the cellular service to communicate to your alarm system, prompting it to do something like arm or disarm.

Interactive monitoring allows you to communicate commands to your alarm system no matter where you are. Cellular communicators are dedicated solely to the security system, so they are not shared with any other service.

Some advantages of installing a Cellular Communicator are:

  •                 They are not affected by storms or network/power outages
  •                 Burglars cutting your phone line will NOT disable your alarm system
  •                 Enables remote access/interactive monitoring

For phone line monitored security systems:

  •                 If you get rid of your landline, you will need a cellular communicator.
  •                 If you decide to change digital phone carriers, you will need to reset and reconnect your security system, which requires a service visit and charge from Secur-Tek, Inc.

So if you are interested in higher security reliability and the ease of controlling parts of your security system from your smartphone, a cellular communicator may be the right solution for you.

Give us a call and we can recommend your best security options.

To Monitor or Not Monitor – That is the Question

People often ask: If I have a security system with an alarm, why should I pay to have it monitored? There are many things to consider when determining if you need a security system and if it should be monitored. Taking the time to clarify your security situation and needs is essential for making an informed decision.

These variables should be considered when determining your security needs:

Do you have valuables such as jewelry, paintings, or irreplaceable family heirlooms in your home?

How about children, seniors or pets that are left alone during the day?

Do you travel frequently – for how long – is your workplace more than a 30 minute commute?

What are the physical properties of your home – do you have lots of bushes and trees or high visibility?

Are you near high traffic areas; do you have police patrolling?

Do you have a pool, fireplace or fire pit?

What monitoring does – While keeping burglars or prowlers out of your house and off your property is critical, minimizing loss through quick response time, fire detection, heat sensors, air quality and other features is also a great benefit.

How monitoring actually works – Basically, when your alarm is triggered, it sends a coded signal to the monitoring center. The security company will call your agreed upon pre-set number and ask for the password you have set – if they get no answer or the person doesn’t know the password, the police are immediately contacted. If a fire, flooding or air poisoning is detected the same routine is followed.

So why monitor your home if you have an alarm already installed?

The typical system will have a siren go off for approximately five minutes after it is tripped. If monitored and there is no emergency in progress, the alarm can be cancelled by giving the monitoring station your password. If a burglar or prowler trips the alarm, they usually leave the premise quickly. In many cases, the intruder will then hide and watch to see if there is any activity in the home, or if police/people arrive. If so, they typically will leave quickly to focus their efforts on an easier target — a non-monitored home

Low-voltage smoke detectors connected to your monitored alarm system give quicker response to smoke in your home than a neighbor seeing the flames shooting thru your roof — when it is too late to save your property or maybe someone’s life.

Tip: If you are away and unable to respond to an alarm, it is a good idea to have a relative, trusted neighbor, or friend know the code and meet the emergency responders if the alarm is tripped. They can let the police in and check to make sure nothing is missing; but are not to enter before the authorities arrive for their safety.

While there is a monthly cost to monitor your home or business, only monitored systems have professionals to help respond to emergencies 24/7. Once you assess your lifestyle, property parameters and situation, you may see that monitoring is the right choice for you.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your security system needs, please don’t hesitate to call us!

Online Safety – 6 Tips for You, Your Family and Friends

security online

Just as it is a good idea to secure your home, you should ensure your safety online.

With hacks, scams, malware and identity theft, the Internet poses multiple risks.

The good news is, by taking a handful of security precautions you can greatly reduce your exposure to online threats.

 

1) Keep your network updated.

Are the operating systems of your equipment up to date? Check to make sure you have the latest security updates installed. This includes computers, antivirus software and your router.  Check to see if your router uses a WPA2 password. WEB passwords are older and insecure.

2) Change your passwords periodically.

Set a reminder to change your important passwords. Also, be sure to change any default passwords that come with equipment when installed. That includes wireless doorbells, security codes, and routers.

3) Practice email safety.

Malware and scams are looking for a way into your computer.

  • If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open it.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links, even if the email appears to be from someone or an organization that you know – their email could be hacked, or it could be a phishing site.   When in doubt, send them a separate email or contact them another way and ask if they sent the message. If it is not from them, they will appreciate knowing about it!

4) Research before you download.

That new streaming service or third-party software ad might look good, but a quick web search to verify legitimacy and check user reviews can prevent many headaches later.

5) Check your credit.

Set up notifications so you know if any changes are made to your accounts.

6) Be a Selective Sharer. 

Social Media creates many opportunities to share our personal information online. Be cautious about what you share, particularly when it comes to information that could be potentially used to impersonate you or compromise your passwords and logins.

 

Looking for more security tips?  Follow the Secur-Tek Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SecurTekNC

Tips for Hosting a Super Super Bowl Party

Thinking about throwing a Super Super Bowl LII Party? It can be lots of fun; following a few party hosting guidelines can help make sure everyone has a great time.

 

1) Who (and how) many people should I invite?

It may depend on the space you have, but for most parties, keeping the number of guests to 15 – 20 is optimal. This number is large enough to get a lot of talk and laughter, but not so large that as the host, you have to spend all of your time checking on everyone – after all, it is the Super Bowl and you want to watch and have fun as well.

As far as who you should invite, close friends, family, or neighbors and their significant others are always a good start. Work friends or colleagues are fine as long as you know them well and socialize with them on a regular basis. Think twice about inviting upper “management” (unless of course, those are your colleagues) simply because your friends, family, and co-workers might feel restrained or uncomfortable with career decision makers in the room.

2) What timing is good for the party?

When inviting guests, have a defined start and end time – not more than an hour before kickoff and shortly after the game ends. This helps because the Super Bowl can play on for hours. People are going to be drinking, laughing and talking constantly which can get tiring. So avoid a “downer” ending by limiting the amount of time the party goes on. 

3) What do I need to consider about my place?

There should be enough seating, so the majority of people have a place to land.

You’ve probably already thought about getting your place looking nice and comfortably clean. Check to make sure you’ve got toilet paper stocked, soap dispensers contain soap and all walking areas are free from clutter.

Sometimes people forget to make sure the refrigerator has extra room and is presentable – guests may show up with a microbrew or appetizer and need a cold place to store it.

4) What about the TV or Entertainment System?

It is very important that everyone at your Super Bowl party has the ability to watch the game. The average Super Bowl party has 17 people, this can make viewing difficult. To address this, you can have multiple TV’s showing the game. Just make sure the TVs aren’t out of sync. If one set is slightly ahead of the other because of a lag in your digital receiver, the people in the back room who will hear everyone in the front room cheering before the play is finished. And that’s a serious Super Bowl party personal foul.

Or maybe it’s time for that home theater system you’ve been wanting! For help with evaluating home theater systems and installation, contact us.

5) What do I serve?

It’s a Super Bowl party—snacks are a must. It seems impossible to enjoy hyped-up football games without the proper amount of carbs, fats, sweets, barbecued things, miniature snacks, and pizza! To do this right, you must have at least three types of munchies (chips, nuts, and pretzels) plus any other crunchy you happen to like. Have them at multiple locations for easy access.

Then, around halftime, you should present the warm edibles. Again, the rule of three seems a solid strategy to make sure everyone has something they enjoy. The key is to keep it simple and fun! You can even order food.

If ordering food for delivery, having a smart doorbell is a great help. Swap your current doorbell for a Skybell and enjoy a higher level of safety and convenience. When the delivery person rings the doorbell, you can see who is there. No more interruptions during the game or missing the food delivery because of the loud party going on inside. Call us at Secur-Tek to find out more.

6) What about drinks?

Stock up on ice. Buy the number of bags you think you need plus two — it goes fast! Then pick up a giant pack of small water bottles and arrange them in a cooler convenient for all. Water keeps people hydrated and in good spirits – it also comes in handy if guests drink alcohol.

In addition, get a couple types of non-alcoholic beverages. (Pick those you like so if it is left over you can enjoy it later).

If you feel comfortable serving alcohol, offer a variety. Wine, beer, and the hard stuff (don’t get too fancy). Include a couple bottles of white and red wine, light and regular beer and whichever vodka or gin you like. Clear alcohol is the best for avoiding spill stains and ease of cleaning up.

Note – make sure as the host you offer your guests plenty of water during the second half of the game so people stay alert, safe and in a good mood. 

7) What about the halftime show?

Even though you might be tempted, don’t turn the volume down during halftime. Every group of friends has a few people that want to see Justin Timberlake. Of course, it probably won’t compare to his SB 2004 performance and Janet Jackson’s “costume malfunction”. 🙂

Don’t mute commercials, either. They’ll be guests who want to see what Budweiser has planned or how the puppy bowl turns out!

 

 

8) Corral the Kids

If there will be children coming to your home during the party, prepare a separate space and some entertainment to keep them happy and busy during the game. Most children don’t have the interest or attention span for long drawn out sporting events. Make sure you have a safe separate room where the kids can play, watch a movie or play games. Also, keep them supplied with their own “child-friendly” snacks and drinks, because “kiddy fingers” shouldn’t be an ingredient in the snacks the grown ups are munching on.

 9) Last and far from least – avoid social media.

Make it a party rule and emphasize it at the door in a fun way:

No Facebook posts. No Instagrams. No Snap Chats. No Twitter.

Why? This will avoid party “dead zones” where guest get sucked into their phones instead of talking and enjoying the game with the people around them. Additionally, just in case someone realizes the next morning work is probably not in the cards, there won’t evidence of what they (or you) were up to the night before.

 

So there you have it – the simple but effective guidelines for a Super-De-Duper Super Bowl Party everyone will enjoy!  And by the way, let your Mother, Brother, Sister or best friends know that next year is on them!!

 

Thanks for reading!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) What do I serve?

It’s a Super Bowl party—snacks are a must. It seems impossible to enjoy hyped-up football games without the proper amount of carbs, fats, sweets, barbecued things, miniature snacks, and pizza! To do this right, you must have at least three types of munchies (chips, nuts, and pretzels) plus any other crunchy you happen to like. Have them at multiple locations for easy access.

Then, around half time you should present the warm edibles. Again, the rule of three seems a solid strategy to make sure everyone has something they enjoy. The key is to keep it simple and fun! You can even order food.

 

If ordering food for delivery, having a smart doorbell is a great help. Swap your current doorbell for a Skybell and enjoy a higher level of safety and convenience. When the delivery person rings the doorbell, you can see who is there. No more interruptions during the game or missing the food delivery because of the loud party going on inside. Call us at Secur-Tek to find out more.

 

6) What about drinks?

Stock up on ice. Buy the number of bags you think you need plus two — it goes fast! Then pick up a giant pack of small water bottles and arrange them in a cooler convenient for all. Water keeps people hydrated and in good spirits – it also comes in handy if guests drink alcohol.

In addition, get a couple types of non-alcoholic beverages. (Pick those you like so if it is left over you can enjoy it later).

If you feel comfortable serving alcohol, offer a variety. Wine, beer, and the hard stuff (don’t get too fancy). Include a couple bottles of white and red wine, light and regular beer and whichever vodka or gin you like. Clear alcohol is the best for avoiding spill stains and ease of cleaning up.

 

Note – make sure as the host you offer your guests plenty of water during the second half of the game so people stay alert, safe and in a good mood!

 

7) What about the halftime show?

Even though you might be tempted, don’t turn the volume down during halftime. Every group of friends has a few people that want to see Justin Timberlake. Of course, it probably won’t compare to his SB 2004 performance and Janet Jackson’s “costume malfunction”.

Don’t mute commercials, either. They’ll be guests who want to see what Budweiser has planned or how the puppy bowl turns out!