Below are links to articles posted in Home Safety.
Smoke Alarm Systems are Necessary
Fires have always been and will continue to be, a life-threatening danger. Since smoke alarms became legally required of all residences in 1973, fire- and smoke-related deaths and injuries have decreased significantly. However, it is vital to not just abide by the minimum legal requirements for protection from fire and smoke accidents. Smart consumers are using the latest technology and systems available to better protect their families and property.
What National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Statistics Show
Between 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 358,300 home structure fires per year. This represents three-quarters of all structure fires during the period, and caused $6.7 billion in direct damage, or 69% of total direct damage from structure fires.
The most compelling statistic for necessitating an upgraded smoke alarm service, though, is that sixty-five percent of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no working smoke detectors.
Non-home structure fires, or most often fires in businesses and offices, accounted for more than 136,000 fires in 2015, resulting in 125 deaths, 1,925 injuries and $3,300,000,000 in property damage according to the NFPA.
Smoke Alarm Service Options
With a wide-range of DIY smoke alarm systems and installations and a variance of professionally managed and monitored fire prevention and smoke alarm systems available, homeowners and business owners have more options for protection than ever before. But, how do you know that the system you’re using is the best level of protection for your loved ones and your property?
The answer is that superior technology, reliability, and tested accuracy are the core components to look for in a smoke alarm system. Combined, these elements will provide the best level of defense against potential harm, or death, caused by fire and smoke.
Fortress’ smoke alarm systems utilize photoelectric smoke sensors built to respond immediately using optical sensing chambers and thermal heat sensing technologies. Our preferred hardwired smoke detectors from the InterLogix 500 series are fully compatible with an array of control panels. And, our preferred wireless smoke detector, the Honeywell 5806W3, is proven to provide the highest level of fire and smoke safety for your home or business.
Interested in learning how a new or updated smoke alarm system can work for your home or business? Learn more about our services or contact us today to see how we can help.
Video Verification Provides Enhanced Safety and Quicker Emergency Response Time
Watching your home’s security video feed through an app on your phone or computer has become the new standard. Known in the industry as self-surveillance, the rise in this kind of home monitoring is due to the decreasing costs of surveillance cameras and the increased capabilities of smartphone technology. These advances have also led to the latest trend in home security, video verification (VV). According to the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), “Video verification is the use of captured video or real-time video in which the video information or recording is aligned with the action that initiated an alarm event to assist in determining the protocol to be followed for the alarm event.” In the past, video verification technology was too expensive for most homeowners and too difficult to install. But, that is no longer the case. Today video verification is quickly becoming a mainstream alarm system feature.
Video Verification benefits homeowners
With video verification, when a surveillance camera notices activity, the monitoring alarm center receives notice right away. A trained alarm center operator reviews the video footage, verifies what is transpiring, and reports it to the police right away. If the trained operator is watching a burglary in progress via video, it will be issued a higher priority. A burglary in progress is treated as a “priority 1,” by law enforcement. An alarm triggered without video verification is usually considered a “priority 3,” a much less important priority. The change in priority level from 3 to 1 means a much faster police response time. In the case of a tripped alarm, seeing is believing.
Video Verification benefits law enforcement
Video verification technology is proving to be a win-win for both homeowners and law enforcement. For homeowners, video verification provides a quicker response time by police. As law enforcement continues to be faced with increasing job demands and smaller budgets, video verification helps minimize wasted time and money with false alarms. For officers, knowing more about the situation before they enter a home can also increase an officer’s situational awareness and safety. It also helps law enforcement better enhance the safety of neighborhoods since robbers are deterred by video.
Chief Steve Dye of Grand Prairie, TX, shared, “From our perspective, we see no difference between an eyewitness calling to report a crime and a central station operator calling to report a crime they have seen on video. In fact, the fact that a video exists of the actual event could mean the central station call could even be considered stronger.” And, he means what he says. Currently, the response time for a video verified alarm in Grand Prairie, TX is less than two minutes.
Video Verification offered by Fortress
Fortress Security offers the affordable I-View Now technology video verification. This cloud-based central station video interface works with most current alarm systems. The service is web-based and does not require software or a dedicated application.
Ready to upgrade to system with video verification? Contact Fortress today to learn more.
Do you leave your kids home alone?
According to a survey of working parents, one in five children ages 6 to 12 is regularly left without adult supervision after school. For many families, this is the best solution. Of course, children must have some basic skills, a level of maturity, and their parent’s trust to be left at home alone. Smart home technology is helping to put working parents’ most common worries to rest and making it safer for kids to stay at home alone.
How does Smart Home technology help working parents?
Welcome to the life of the modern latchkey kids. Thanks to smart home technology, latchkey kids no longer have to carry a key around their neck. Gone are the fears of your child losing their key on the playground and being locked out of the house until you come home after work. Smart locks have the ability to be controlled by the parent from afar. If you know your child always walks in at 3:15 you can set the door to unlock then. Or if they are going to be late with an after-school activity you can unlock it from your smartphone at the new designated time. Children can also have their own “digital” key, which means they input a code into the lock to get into the house. A great safety feature of this technology is you can lock the door directly from an app on your iPhone or Android smartphone. No more sitting in a meeting worrying if your child locked the door after they came home.
Remote control access and video feeds keep kids safe
Another great safety feature is you can monitor who comes in and out 24/7 with an activity log on your smartphone.
Once a child is safely at home, you can arm or disarm the alarm system from your phone or computer. Managing the home environment is easy too. With a smart home you can set specific lights to come on at 3:15 and for the air or heat to kick in a few minutes before your child comes home, making the house comfortable for them.
Now that your child is safe inside, you can also monitor what he/she does with internal IP video feeds. With a click on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you can see what is going on in different areas of the house. Is homework being done or are video games being played? Are healthy snacks being chosen or junk food? You can easily check-in and see. Children appreciate rules and routine so this kind of parental involvement, even while you are at work can add needed structure to their day.
Remote notifications of fire or carbon monoxide leaks and more
A smart house is equipped with the alarm system also to monitor for fire or carbon monoxide. If either were detected an alert would be sent to your phone as well as the call center.
Another great safety feature that is easy to incorporate into a smart home is a video doorbell like the Skybell video doorbell. The doorbell rings at 4 o’clock. Both you and your child on separate devices can check and see who is there. Is it your son’s best friend asking him to come over and play? An important package that needs signing? Or a dreaded door-to-door salesman? With a video doorbell, you decide if you want your kid to get the door. Even better, you can “answer” the door from afar. Using your smartphone, you can speak through the Skybell video doorbell and tell the salesman you are not interested. They will never know your child is in there alone since an adult just “answered” the doorbell.
Smart homes are making after school safer for kids today. Call us or fill out this form to get in touch with us about Honeywell smart home technology from Fortress Security, a leader in Texas home security, professional monitoring, and smart technology.
With the proliferation of technological advancements, both home and business security industries are constantly receiving new innovations. And, you, the consumer, gets to reap the benefits. A top-of-the-line home security system two years ago has evolved tremendously into different options that are available today. But, just what kind of security system offers the most state-of-the-art protection for your home today? It starts with the creation of a fully automated home, or a “smart home.”
And, what exactly does “smart home” mean? A smart home means your home is responsive to your lifestyle. Smart homes, too, give you the ability to control items around the house with a simple push of a button. Having a smart home means you can control your home, from your central keypad, or from your phone, tablet or desktop computer.
A smart home security system always starts with a central hub – your control panel. It’s the heart of your system. Fortress Security’s home automation solutions include the Honeywell Tuxedo keypad, the Rolls Royce of control panels in the industry. This control panel features a high-resolution, 7-inch touch screen. It is from this panel that you can control everything “smart” in your home. Or, you can go remote. Fortress Security’s Total Connect smartphone app allows remote control and management of all your Fortress Security systems and home automation features including, security, cameras, energy, lighting, and your doorbell.
Just as important as using modern equipment to build your system, is the kind of monitoring your alarm system receives. Fortress Security has one of the nation’s largest network of monitoring centers. Because of this, our customers receive the fastest response on the market. Our 4G interconnected network of five monitoring centers are U.L. listed and equipped with the latest telephone, computer, and redundant back-up power systems available today. This monitoring coverage ensures your services are never interrupted. Our professional monitoring staff are fully trained, licensed, and background checked, and they are there 24/7 ready to respond to any emergency at any time.
An IP camera, or internet connected camera, is another popular component of today’s security systems. This digital video camera can send and receive data via a computer network and the internet, unlike an analog or closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras. Is this add-on worth the additional price? Yes, if you’re interested in watching real-time streaming video via your smartphone or PC.
With IP cameras, you can save, record and access all your recorded data from virtually anywhere. This technology is helping to make quickly and accurately identify criminals breaking into a house or stealing packages off of your front porch.
Fortress offers top-of-the-line sensors for safety. Our glass break sensors for doors and windows use a shatter recognition technology listening for glass break frequencies. And, Fortress’s line of motion sensors gives you the protection you need in any environment using today’s latest optics technology. Another lesser known benefit, Fortress Security’s door and window sensors can protect against any opening, like important cabinets or safes inside your home.
When it comes to in-home safety, our smoke sensors offer state-of-the-art photoelectric, optical sensing chamber technology. And, our carbon monoxide sensor utilizes electrochemical sensing technology that measures carbon monoxide levels in the air. This allows for the highest level of protection against smoke and fire dangers for you and your family.
Other Smart Home Automation Solutions
Many cutting edge smart home features incorporate into a Fortress system, starting with the addition of a touch screen smart thermostat. Fortress’ Smart Z-Wave thermostat can set heating and cooling profiles and reduce energy waste. Have it set to turn off while you are at work, and come on thirty minutes before you come home at night. Using smart home technology like this can save you up to 33% on annual heating and cooling costs. The Z-Wave smart lighting feature can also control the lights in and around your house so you don’t waste energy. And, with smart technology you can make sure you never forget to turn on your front porch light at night.
Fortress also offers automatic door locks to help you lock or unlock your doors remotely. Remote locking and unlocking is super convenient for kids coming home after school or when you want to unlock your door for a visitor when you are not home.
SkyBell, a video doorbell, is another new smart security device now available to help homeowners. SkyBell lets you see, hear, and speak to visitors at the door while you’re not there (or even home). All of these smart features easily combine with Fortress’s Honeywell Total Connect® 2.0 Remote Services app, so you can manage all aspects of your home from mobile devices.
Security systems will continue to evolve as smart homes continue to evolve. Right now, these security features are the best in the business. Fortress security lets you pick and choose the products you want or need for security in your daily life.
Texas Weather can Change on a Dime
You never know what is going to happen with Texas weather. One winter day it’s sunny and mild, the next day, snowpocalypse. Truly, Texas weather can change on a dime.
December 26th, 2015 was one of those days. Last year, a day after Christmas, nine tornadoes hit the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It was sudden, and most citizens were not aware of the coming disaster. Many people were caught off guard, and many were not able to take cover by the time the tornado sirens went off. As natural disasters are largely unpredictable, it is important to have safety precautions in place in the home. Weather alerts are a great – even lifesaving – feature of a smart home.
Honeywell Smart Home Security with Weather Alerts
Fortress Security is proud to offer Honeywell products, including state-of-the-art, full color, touch screen panels. In addition to controlling your security system, you can also control the household lights and thermostat, view video from cameras both inside and outside the house, and now receive important weather warnings.
How it Works
Weather services integrated into your security system can provide up-to-the-minute severe weather alerts as well as current weather and five-day forecasts. If you are a weather service subscriber and a tornado was in the area, you would hear a series of loud beeps (no one could ignore) and a warning message would appear on your alarm panel. Since weather emergencies can come on so quickly, this truly can be a lifesaver. The up-to-date information is issued by the National Weather Service through the cloud to your security panel.
Watching out for kids & the elderly
There is a great security feature for kids who may stay at home by themselves for a few hours after school, or for elderly parents who reside in their own home and lack the technology to be notified otherwise. If they are not online or watching TV at the time of a severe weather alert, they might be clueless about an oncoming tornado or other such emergency. The loud beep and message would alert them to take cover in the family’s designated safety area. You can also monitor and control the system away from home with Honeywell’s Total Connect Information Services. So even if you were at work, you would know there was a tornado warning in your home’s area.
Weather Alerts in Action
Tornado touchdowns have been verified in all fifty states. The Coleman family from Long Island, New York recently went through a tornado disaster drill. Chris Coleman, a Honeywell employee, (and weather alert subscriber) received a nervous call at work from his son at home. His son explained that the tornado warning was going off on their Honeywell LYNX Touch security system panel. Chris told him to get to safety quickly in the basement. Luckily, the tornado never touched down in the area, and Chris’s son was perfectly safe. But the added layer of safety was a great benefit to this family, and it provides peace of mind going forward.
A smart alarm system can keep your family safe from burglary, fire, carbon monoxide, and now, even severe weather. Call or fill out our contact form to talk with a Fortress Security representative about ensuring the safety of your family in the case of a severe weather incident.
Door-to-door scams may not seem as commonplace as they once were – with people now more educated on sneaky sales tactics and the ever-increasing use of the Internet for online shopping and product comparison. But, door-to-door sales scams are still happening, especially in the summertime, and there’s a good reason for that.
Quite often during the summer, there is also the influx of new, college students, home for the summer and taking short-term jobs with larger security companies that may not adhere to the training they were given, doing anything to get in sales before the summer ends. Don’t fall prey to these scams. Follow our suggestions below to have a fun, worry-free summer.
Know what to look for before you answer the door.
What are the usual types of scams?
These tend to happen from salespersons posing as representatives from your security system provider. They say that they are here to upgrade your system, however, they are actually changing out your system with a competitor’s at a higher contract price. They will say things like “your security company merged with ours or our company just bought your security company, and now we’re upgrading everyone on the legacy systems.” They will also say your security company is going out of business, and they’ve taken over the contracts and need to process a free upgrade. Anything that is “free” should raise a red flag.
This may seem obvious, but these guys are generally very good at what they do. These would-be burglars are actually posing as a salesperson, just looking to scope out or modify your system so they can gain access more easily, at a later time.
Phone Call Scams
Not all scams are door-to-door. In fact, in 2014 home security systems phone call scams were among the top scams that year. Often the scammer will resort to calling your home and asking which security system you have installed — pretending to be a salesman for another company, but in reality, they’re just determining if you’re an easy target. Many times they will start out as a pre-recorded call aka robocall hoping you’ll take the bait and stick on the line to speak with a “representative.” The content of the robocall usually sounds generic and won’t bother listing a company name in the process.
Be aware they shouldn’t ask for a credit card or any other sensitive information over the phone. If they do, that should set off some alerts in your head to hang up the call.
Ways to avoid scams
Knowledge is power, so first and foremost make sure you contact your existing alarm company before signing any contracts or paperwork from a door-to-door salesperson from another security company. Second, inform your kids and anyone staying at your home for the summer of your alarm system and the potential for scam artists. Let them know that any changes would be scheduled and no person coming to change or fix your system would try to sell you something.
If you schedule a maintenance or upgrade appointment, make sure everyone is aware that someone will be visiting your home to work on the system, especially if you won’t be there.
Visual cues can help you decide if they are with your company. Start with the solicitor. Do they have a uniform or other identifying materials on them? Does their car have a wrap or any other company decals? Some states even require a “pocket card” that includes a license and photo ID.
No Soliciting signs are also a good deterrent for scam artists. If you let it be known that you aren’t willing to be approached, they’ll be less likely to knock on your door in the first place.
If you don’t have a sign, ask them if they have a soliciting permit in your city? Are they abiding by the rules of that permit? If they are at your home before 9am or after 7pm they are more than likely violating the ordinance. Here’s one example of a solicitation permit, required by Richardson, Texas –
Keep in touch with your neighborhood watch program and find out how common scams are in your area, and watch the local news for any notices of scams.
Get on the Do Not Call list, this will minimize solicitation calls and the potential for future scams. It’s free and easy to add yourself to the list. Just check out https://www.donotcall.gov/ and fill out the appropriate form. If someone calls you and you’re on the list already, remember to report them on that site as well!
Protect yourself and others
If you are one of the unfortunate targets of a potential scam this summer, do your part to help make it stop. Taking the time to report a potential scam artist can save many in your area the time and frustration that comes with undoing the damage caused by them. So, where do you start?
Start by contacting the local authorities to report the salesperson. Your local police department should have a non-emergency number you can call to report them. Also, don’t let your neighbors fall prey to scammers. Let them know of your encounter by posting on any online forums that you may have for your neighborhood on Facebook, Nextdoor or even texting them to get the word out.
In the unfortunate case you become the victim of a scammer, remember, you have 3 days to cancel any contract you signed. You can also file a consumer complaint with the Texas Attorney General or BBB if you like.
Spend your summer scam free
As summer begins and the temperatures rise, so do the chances you’ll encounter someone trying to scam you out of your hard earned money. Taking the time to make you and your household aware of the risks is the best way to keep a scam from happening to your home. Also, know that most reputable security companies won’t come to your home unless you have scheduled an appointment with them.
Fortress Security offers a wide range of home security capabilities and other safety features. Give us a call or fill out an online form to request a free quote today.
The lights are hung, the tree is up, the candles are flickering. The holidays are meant to be merry and bright, yet, there are so many hidden fire dangers during this time of year. Fires are more common and more deadly now than during any other season. According to the American Red Cross, nearly 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays, claiming more than 500 lives, causing more than 2,200 injuries, and costing $554 million in property damage. Don’t let your house become a fire statistic. Consider these ways to keep you family and home safe through the New Year.
Candle fires are 4x as likely to occur in December as any other month of the year. They set the tablescape, and their warm flickering glow puts you in the holiday spirit. But, when it comes to open flames, you can never be too careful. Never leave a candle unattended. Also, make sure your candles are on a steady base and have a protective glass covering around them (like a votive holder or a hurricane for larger candles). Place them a foot away from anything else so they don’t catch other decorations on fire. Make sure they are out of children’s reach. Kids are drawn to fire, so make sure your candles don’t become a fun “plaything” for the kids. And, after a holiday party or get together be sure to go through the whole house and make sure all candles are blown out.
Or, why not try an alternate to the traditional candle? The new LED candles come in all colors and shapes and flicker just like the real thing, without the worry.
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Texas State Fair officials did their due diligence ahead of time, making sure that all food and ride vendors were following safety guidelines. But there also are a number of good practices that attendees can adopt to make the experience worry-free:
1. Have a separation plan. Designate a meet-up spot and tuck a paper with your cell phone number into your kids’ pockets.
2. Snap photos of kids in their current outfits. A shareable photo on a mobile device will be a great help to security find a lost child.
3. Don’t carry large tote bags with wide openings. Cross-body bags that zip up completely are much harder to pickpocket.
4. Stay healthy. Drink plenty of water, wash your hands or use sanitizer frequently, and apply plenty of sunscreen.
5. Park as safely as possible. Choose a spot near light fixtures that will be on at night, and stay close to other groups while walking to and from the event.
Home security systems offer a number of features you can choose between when putting together a custom build with a security technician. When making your decisions, you need to evaluate all of the possible risks. And homeowners in the DFW area have a unique set of safety concerns to consider.
According to the most recent crime statistics compiled by the FBI, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metroplex is only a moderately risky place, ranking 17th in the state for overall crime rates, with fewer per capita burglaries than some smaller cities like Lubbock, Texarkana, and Beaumont-Port Arthur. However, statistics aren’t much comfort if you’re among the victims. So it’s important to take steps to avoid being a target when possible.
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Just as you’re getting the hang of your summer schedule, the start of the next school year is right around the corner. As you rush around collecting pencils, paper, books, and new clothes for your kids, remember to prepare for the coming changes to your routine, too.
Your kids are getting older and with every year that passes, they get new freedom and responsibility. But with that comes a little more risk. Before the first day of classes, you might want to review some important rules and good practices with them. Use this back-to-school safety checklist to get that conversation started.
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