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.

 

 

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!

VOIP AND DIGITAL PHONE SERVICE MAY INTERFERE WITH YOUR SECURITY/LIFE SAFETY SYSTEM

13767649_sWe would like to inform you about the potential impact that new types of phone services may have on your security/life safety system.  Commonly referred to as “VoIP” (Voice over Internet Protocol) and “digital telephone service,” these new phone options are rapidly growing in popularity.  These technologies allow you to make telephone calls via a broadband connection instead of using a traditional, “landline” phone service.  The benefits include enhanced features and lower costs compared to the traditional service. Typically, these new types of phone services replace your landline service.

It is important that you are aware that these new services can adversely affect your electronic security/life safety system.

In almost all cases, your security/life safety system relies on proper operation of the telephone line, and its associated special security wiring, to reliably communicate alarm signals to the central station. There are several important things to consider before making the decision to use VoIP or digital telephone service:

  • With a self-installed VoIP service, such as Vonage or AT&T’s CallVantage, your alarm system may lose its connection to the telephone service, rendering the system unable to send alarm signals to the central station.  VoIP technology may also cause your alarm signals to get scrambled as they are sent to the central station.
  • With digital telephone phone services offered by your cable provider, your system may be unable to consistently and reliably send alarm signals to the central station.  This technology may also cause your alarm signals to get scrambled as they are sent to the central station.
  • In addition to the security system’s battery back-up equipment, VoIP and digital phone services may need additional battery back-up equipment to maintain communications in the event of a power failure.

Either way, there is significant risk that your security/life safety system will not be able to communicate an emergency signal to the central station.

We encourage you to check with Secur-Tek, Inc. before making any changes to your existing telephone service. If you have already made the decision to switch to VoIP or digital phone service, it is extremely important that you contact us after you have the new phone service installed and Secur-Tek, Inc. will arrange a service call to properly test your system and check the wiring.

For the utmost reliability, there are new security communications solutions available that use digital wireless transmission or the Internet to reliably send alarm signals to the central station. These services allow you to take maximum advantage of cost savings from VoIP or digital telephone services while maintaining, and even improving, the reliability of your security/life safety system.  We would be happy to discuss these options with you.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact Secur-Tek, Inc. at 919-387-1800.

 

Home Theater Without the Hassle: Set Up Your System for the Super Bowl

Home theater systems make watching your favorite movies — or the upcoming Super Bowl — way more exciting. With the right screen and sound system, you feel as though you’re part of the action.

This time of year, many people try to install their own home theater systems. While the process seems easy enough, like many DIY projects, it can be harder than it looks. Here are three fantastic reasons to call Secur-Tek’s team for help:

1. No hassle. The day before the big game, you’ve got cables and cords all over the place. Hours later, you’ve tested one way, tested another. You can avoid the hassle by calling on our team to make sure the connections are not only correct, but stowed away attractively and neatly. Plus, our team can answer any questions you have about the system and how it all works. You can then spend more time basking in the glow of the amazing system before your friends arrive. 

2. Better picture and sound quality. You just spent good money to buy the best quality products. Great! But setting up the system wrong means you won’t get the best quality audio or video. Why spend that money only to lose out due to an error? Proper calibration, set up, and the room acoustics all go into the right system. Our team can make sure your home theater impresses friends, visitors, and even you! 

3. Peace of mind. Many people can help you hide cables or mount a TV so that it won’t fall off the wall. Installing a good home theater system requires more than construction knowledge. Hiring experts who spend their days drooling over home theater systems will ensure you’ve got the best system for your space and budget. Plus, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes that leave holes in the wall or cause electrical problems. (Your spouse will appreciate that peace of mind, too.)

What questions do you have about home theater systems? The team at Secur-Tek is happy to help. Contact us to get your system installed before your next party.

How to Prevent Packages from Being Stolen Off Your Porch

Packages left on the porch are vulnerable at any time, but ‘tis the season for a few more brown parcels to appear at your doorstep. The demand for online shopping is constantly increasing, and last year carriers delivered more than 600 million packages this time of year. Whether you’re ordering gifts online for family or receiving them from friends afar, you’re more likely to have packages sitting pretty on your porch this month.

A 2005 report from insurancequotes.com estimated that about 23 million Americans have experienced porch package theft. Many find out about it later. After all, you may not know a package was delivered until you realize it never arrived. One media outlet reported last year that organized “Porch Pirates” follow UPS and FedEx trucks and then steal packages shortly after the truck delivers it.

8 Tips for Package Theft Prevention

Protect your packages with these security steps:

  1. Customize delivery. If the ordering system allows you to choose the time of delivery, select a time you know you’ll be at home.
  2. Install a doorbell camera. Not all package delivery teams ring the doorbell, but if they do, you’ll be able to see the person dropping the package off. Now that you have delivery confirmation, you can try to get home sooner to pick it up. Some doorbell cameras also turn on when there is movement on the porch, so you could see someone trying to steal the package as well. You can also install a regular camera with motion-sensing and recording features so you can monitor your porch and use the recording to prove the theft.
  3. Deliver decisively. Have the package delivered elsewhere. If you’re not home much, consider having the package delivered to your office or a friend or neighbor’s house for safekeeping.
  4. Hold the post. Have the post office or carrier hold the package. Request UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service to hold packages at their facility for you to pick up later. UPS has created a service called Access Point that enables you to choose an alternate delivery location in your neighborhood.
  5. Neighborhood watch. Alert a neighbor that you are expecting a package and have him or her keep an eye out. If you won’t be home for a long time, he or she might be willing to hide the package for you. If you use Nextdoor or a similar neighborhood app you can let neighbors know if something has been stolen from your porch so they can keep an eye out.
  6. Hide your valuables. Talk to your postal carrier about packages. Is there an easy place for him or her to hide them? Some carriers will place them on the back porch if requested.
  7. Be aware. Talk to family and friends who may be mailing your holiday gifts. Ask them to let you know when they send things so you can watch for it.
  8. Light it up. Install outdoor lights. Your package is more likely to be stolen during daylight hours, but night falls early this time of year. Outdoor lights with motion or light sensors are a good way to keep people away from your home in general.

Heading out of town? Check out our 7 ways to tighten home security for the holidays.

Is Your Wireless Security System Safe?

54163030 - information security online privacy protection conceptWireless has made life easier in many ways. You can print something from your living room using your wireless printer. Your wireless phone means you don’t have to buy a 30-foot curly cord and drag it around the house. (Remember that?)

Security systems are wireless, too. While wireless has made life easier, it also makes our homes and devices more vulnerable and not all security systems are created equal. Here is what you need to know to keep your family and valuables safe.

How Wireless Works

Wireless security systems use radio frequency signals sent from your door or window sensors. Those sensors trigger an alarm if breached. According to a study done by two researchers, most systems do not encrypt or authenticate the signals sent from those sensors. That means a hacker could trigger false alarms or even block the signal, preventing the alarm from sounding and preventing the system from alerting fire or police officials. Some alarms come with anti-jamming measures, but hackers have found ways around those, too.

How to Protect Your Home

You really do get what you pay for in security. Inexpensive, DIY systems are vulnerable to hacking. Lyric Systems by Honeywell offers 128-bit encryption. It’s more expensive, but more secure. Any system you choose needs to have encrypted signals. Some alarm systems broadcast on multiple channels, making them tougher to jam. Ask your security team about these options. 

Another option is to install a wired system. Some security experts point out that thieves can cut the wires, but in some residences, the wires are difficult to access, making this a more useful approach.

Don’t buy a used system or used cameras. The previous owners may be thieves who retain access to those devices.

Change usernames and passwords. Anytime you buy an out-of-the box system, a new wireless router, or anything, you MUST change the username and password from the default. While this won’t necessarily prevent all hackers, you might as well make it a little tougher for them. As Forbes found, one security company mailed systems to people with the default login of username “admin” and password “admin.” Because those businesses never changed their login information, it was easy to guess and access their system.

If you have something to protect, such as valuable jewelry, electronics, or art, invest in a good security system installed by Secur-Tek. Our team can recommend a system that fits your security needs. 

4 Amazing Security System Features You Should be Using

Home security systems are getting better all the time, and not just in keeping your home safe from burglars. Today’s security systems can also monitor many more things about your house, from water leaks to who’s at home.

Here are four features you’ll want to try:

Water Sensors – Remember that time you came home from vacation to find your laundry room flooded? What a mess. Avoid that situation from now on by installing environmental sensors in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and basement. These detectors notify you when floods, leaks and extreme temperatures occur so you can take action and prevent serious wall or floor damage. Leaks also account for 10,000 gallons of water wasted annually — in one household.

Pet Friendly Sensors – People with pets at home often worry about their alarm system going off when Fido jumps onto the couch. While that used to be a problem, today’s motion sensors can be set to detect the difference between an intruder and your furry family member. Animals up to 100 pounds can move around your home without tripping the alarm. Plus, home security systems can help you keep an eye on our four-legged friends, alerting you to smoke, carbon monoxide, or other problems. Systems can even tell you if outdoor gates or kitchen cabinets are open.

Video – Video is becoming very popular and it’s easy to see why: you have eyes on your home 24/7. You can see who is at the door, when your kids get home, and keep an eye on babysitters or other in-home employees. For pet owners, a live video feed gives you the chance to check on Fluffy from your desk or phone. You can even get a text message, email or video alert when your dog walker or pet sitter arrives or if they didn’t show up.

Light Controls – Your home security system offers a way to program lights for different situations, including an off-and-on scenario while you’re away to make the home appear lived in. Forgot to turn off a light when you left? No problem. What’s also fun about this control is the ability to instantly turn off or on indoor and outdoor lights from your office computer or smartphone. You’ll never have to arrive at a dark house again.

Check out many more fantastic features of our home security systems or contact us to learn more about setting up your home automation.

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.

Connect Amazon Echo to Control4 for Voice Activated Home Automation

It’s not Rosie, the Jetson’s robot maid. But the future envisioned decades ago is getting a little bit closer every day, especially when it comes to home automation. The latest example is the Amazon Echo.

The Amazon Echo is a small black device that sits in your room. Using voice commands, you can ask it questions about the weather or sports scores, have it order something for you on Amazon, play your music, and more. Just like iPhone has Siri, the Echo has a female voice answering to the name Alexa. One woman says she loves to play a version of 20 questions with Alexa.

By connecting Echo to other systems, you can do even more. One man figured out how to use Echo to pull his Tesla car out of the garage.

Home Automation

Customers often ask us about voice commands for home automation and this is the answer. The Echo connects to smart home devices such as Nest thermostats and the Control4 system so that you can use voice commands to control some of the home automation you have created. At Secur-Tek, we have set up the Echo to work with our Control4 systems so we can turn lights on when we arrive and off when we leave. We can also turn on a TV in our lobby and raise and lower the volume of our lobby music.

While these features are on a limited scale right now, more features are coming every day.

Security Warning

One feature some might consider is using the Echo’s voice command feature to turn your home security system on and off. While this is possible to set up, the Echo does not have individual voice recognition. That means if you set up this option, anyone could come in and tell Echo to turn off the security.

Many of the features offered by Echo you can set up on your own. However, Secur-Tek is happy to help you set up Echo with your Control4 system or other enhancements you request.

Rosie the robot maid may not greet you when you come home, but Alexa is the next best thing. Give us a call if you want to learn more about how we can prepare you for the future.