Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

“There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch”

Monday, July 9th, 2012

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

Aside from using poor grammar, it’s a sadder but wiser person who says, There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. This phrase is in common use today, but dates all the way back to the 19th century, when bars in the United States used to offer a free lunch to urge people to drink at their establishments.  With the purchase of one drink, a lunch was free, and a very salty lunch at that. What happened next? You guessed it! Of course, the patrons were rather thirsty after lunch and ordered another drink, then perhaps another and another. For the price of a free lunch, a bar might get a patron to pay for drinks for half of the afternoon.

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In the world of security systems, there isn’t any such thing as a free lunch.  A company that was really giving their product away wouldn’t be in business very long.  Although many companies may offer free security systems, particularly during summer sales promotions, what is the real cost?

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There are questions to consider in measuring the real cost of a ‘free’ security system:

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How does the monitoring cost compare with monitoring for a system that is purchased up front? Often, the total payout is more than an upfront purchase with lower monitoring costs, when higher monthly fees and longer contracts are considered.

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Does the free system have a good track record of reliability? Is there a warranty on labor and equipment?

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Will the free system actually meet your needs and your lifestyle? Security systems are not a one-size-fits-all product. The system you install should consider your property as unique and you as an individual.

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Is the sales person a long-term employee of the alarm company he or she represents or is he/she seasonal help? What is that person’s training and background in the business? Are they background checked? Do they carry proper identification?

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Is the alarm company licensed? Licensing is expensive and requires testing as well as deep industry experience. It is also the law, designed to protect the consumer.

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Is the alarm company fully insured?

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Who will provide customer service after the sale? Is it a center in a distant state or country, or are you a call away from a real person, even the person who sold your system to you?

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What does a Google search say about that company and its customer care?

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Were you allowed time to think about your commitment, to read the contract and to fully understand it?  If you were rushed in any way, you may have missed out on important details.

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Did the sales person make any claims that sounded too good to be true?

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Before making a final decision on a security system, take a step back, and review these questions.  Don’t get stuck finding out that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

More Bang for Your Security Buck: Helping the Bottom Line

Monday, March 19th, 2012

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An unfortunate side effect of difficult economic times is that business owners find themselves in need of implementing or upgrading their business security at a time when they are attempting to keep expenditures to a minimum.  The balancing act between meeting budgets and providing adequate protection for any business, large or small, has been made easier by innovations in the electronic security industry that give “more bang for your buck”.

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Let’s take a look at two staples of the electronic security industry, security alarm systems and video surveillance systems. Of course, both do the bulk of their work in deterring crime and providing evidence if needed. However, with a closer look, we can see how recent innovations and a little creativity can provide savings that can have significant impact on the bottom line for any business.

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First, integrated burglar and fire alarm systems now operate as one security system, eliminating not only extra equipment and installation costs, but they also no longer require the one, maybe two telephone lines per building they used to demand. New systems operate with Internet &/or cellular communication and the cost is significantly lower than maintaining landlines for security systems.  Would upgrading your system pay for itself in telephone bill savings alone?

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Along with burglar and fire detection, access control is also typically integrated into new alarm systems, also eliminating the need and expense of an additional system while also providing useful and cost effective benefits:

  • Controlling access to the building or certain areas such as supply rooms, preventing unauthorized access or access outside designated hours. This can eliminate shrinkage of office supplies, retail or warehouse products and protects private documents.
  • Documenting employees’ arrival and departure times, including late-to-open, early-to-close, ensuring that both business hours and payroll hours are accurate.
  • Eliminating the need to rekey doors when an employee is terminated by simply deleting their access control card or key fob.

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Further features of the integrated alarm system that are available include:

  • Energy management through automation. Lights, lawn sprinklers and other systems can be controlled, even by remote access.
  • Detecting water and high/low interior temperatures that can catch issues early, before major damage occurs to the facility or product due to water, thaw or freeze.
  • Controlling the security system remotely by text message, smart phone, computer or tablet. Status messages and updates allow business owners to be on top of the happenings at their business even while away.

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Video Surveillance offers forensic evidence in case a crime occurs in addition to the inherent deterrent effect that visible cameras provide.   Surveillance systems also offer insight into the day-to-day events that occur at a business, providing valuable information that can result in a tremendous savings and reduce liability exposure.  Loss prevention is an obvious use for surveillance, but when management is away, cameras serve as a second set of eyes for business owners.  Images give insight into:

  • Worker productivity: Are employees at their work stations? Are they engaged in business-related activities? Are they spending an unusual amount of time in break areas?
  • Customer service:  How are employees handling customers? How long is a customer in your place of business before the employee acknowledges them? How does your employee handle multiple customers at once?
  • Are procedures adhered to when management is not present?
  • Are there safety violations that could result in injury to an employee?
  • Are staffing levels appropriate for the amount of activity during each shift? Could fewer employees handle the same amount of work?
  • Are employees punching their own time cards?
  • Were deliveries received correctly?
  • Are monetary transactions being handled correctly?
  • Is there loitering in areas of your facility by employees or others?
  • Are service providers performing as contracted? Are they on site as long as they say they were?

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Surveillance can now be viewed live from computer, smart phone or tablet as well as remotely searching and replaying archives, giving business owners or managers eyes-on access 24/7.

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The individual business may have many more applications for a security or surveillance system. To find out what those applications might be, an in-depth consultation with a security professional should include a walk-through of the facility inside and out, a discussion addressing these questions and more:

  • What are the day-to-day operations of the business?
  • Are there seasonal or shift differences in operations?
  • How do employees, visitors or customers enter and exit the building?
  • Are there times when only one employee is on duty?
  • Where are deliveries made?
  • Where are sensitive documents or valuable records kept?
  • Is the business subject to privacy law?
  • Are there products or materials that have a high street value?
  • Is the business planning any expansions, remodels or rearranging of space? What does the future hold for that business?
  • Are there products that depend on consistent temperature?
  • Does the building have any potential for flooding or water seepage?
  • Are there other concerns the business owner or operations manager has?

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A top-notch security professional will take plenty of time to get to know a business before making recommendations regarding an alarm and/or surveillance system.  The information gleaned from  a thorough understanding of a business will not only assist in the design of a new system or upgrade to a current system, but ensure that the system is future-proof so it doesn’t become obsolete in a short time and can grow with the business.  Furthermore, the security professional can make suggestions to give business owners more return on their security dollars investment at a time when every penny counts.

Kids Enjoy Fire Prevention Activities Any Time

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

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During Fire Prevention Week, children often have activities at school that highlight everything from “Stop, Drop and Roll” to visits by local fire fighters. Here are some activities that can be done at any time of year to help children understand the importance of fire safety.

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Read a good book!

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US Fire Administration for Kids

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Smokey the Bear

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Fire Safety for Young Children Video 

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Preschool-Grade One Resources

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Meet Sparky the Fire Dog!

 

Take some time to practice your family’s fire drill plan. Make sure to familiarize children with the sound of the smoke detector and security system siren. Enjoy some fun activities together as you help keep your family safe and sound.

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National Campus Safety Awareness Month

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

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September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month. In all of the excitement of college starting, many people don’t stop to think about safety on college campuses, or don’t want to think about it . Yet, the crime statistics on campuses across the country are staggering.  We encourage students and their parents to take time to raise awareness about campus safety and security and to talk about these tips. 

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Emergency numbers of campus security, friends and family should be programmed into your phone’s speed dial.

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Know what types of services your campus security provides and use them.

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Walk lighted paths, don’t use ‘shortcuts’ and walk with someone else whenever possible. Often, security will provide an escort if you have to walk alone.

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Know your campus and your surroundings well, what they look like in daytime as well as night. Where are some safe spots along the routes you take in case you are followed?

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Always let someone know where you are going and when you will return.

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Be aware of what is going on around you.  Wearing headphones while walking or running will eliminate one of your greatest safety assets: listening.

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Always lock your doors and lock your windows at night. Don’t loan your key or key card to anyone. Keep track of your identification.

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Do not prop doors or leave them unlocked.  If security in your dorm is lax, let someone in charge know what needs to be changed.

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Many crimes on campuses are committed by someone the victim knows.  Just because you know someone, does not mean you should let your guard down.  

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Some difficult topics are covered on http://www.securityoncampus.org/.  Awareness goes a long way in preventing campus violence.  I recommend every student and parent check out this site and the statistics it contains. Large or small, public, private or religious, no campus is immune.

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Most of all…trust your instincts. If you feel like something is wrong, it probably is.

Vacant Properties

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

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As I have been driving around the area recently, I’ve noticed that the number of vacant buildings and spaces is staggering. From vacant homes, to old, dilapidated buildings, to brand-new office and retail spaces that aren’t occupied, these vacancies are on nearly every block. Some of these buildings appear to be well-cared for, and many others stand out to me as targets for mischief and crimes like arson and vandalism. Some even seem to be a great opportunity for squatters to make themselves right at home.

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Of course, it’s tough to think about expenditures on real estate that isn’t generating an income stream. However, a little security investment now can prevent larger expenses later in both time and repairs, as well as lowering liability exposure. Here are some security tips to consider if you are the owner of a vacant space:

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First, check with your property insurance carrier to see if any adjustments need to be made for coverage on a vacant building. Insurance that assumes a building is occupied may not cover one that is vacant. You would not want to have a claim denied because you didn’t have the correct coverage. Let them know if you have electronic security and central station monitoring. You may qualify for a discount on your premium.

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There are a number of security measures that can be taken to ensure that unoccupied spaces are safe and secure. #1 on the list is: Don’t forget about your building. Make sure that someone checks on the space weekly. Change the times and days of inspection. Let police know about the vacancy. They will give you extra sets of eyes and ears on your property when you are not there. Advise trusted neighbors of the situation, too, and be sure they have your contact information.

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For fire safety, be sure all combustibles are removed both inside and out. This includes keeping grass and leaves under control and maintained and boxes and trash removed. Keep a fire extinguisher on site and sprinklers active if they are installed.

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If you already have a security or fire system in place, keep it monitored and active. Be sure to inspect and test your system regularly. The company that installed your system can assist with this.

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If you do not have electronic security in place already, there are a number of options available that are good fits for vacant properties. Wireless security systems that are easily installed can monitor burglary and fire. They require very little electricity and no phone line or internet connection. Detectors for smoke, heat, freeze and water can integrate with the security system. Control of the security system can be done by text message if desired, allowing the owner to remotely arm and disarm as well receive status updates on the system. Low-cost additions to the security system can accommodate controlled entry for realtors showing the property. Best of all, these wireless systems can be easily removed once a building is occupied again, and used in another property.

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Camera surveillance is also available, with options of remote viewing by smartphone, computer or tablet. The ability to check on a vacant property remotely gives another layer of protection to the investment.

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No electricity? Products are available that run on long-life battery for a solution to nearly every application.

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For more hints on security for any property or for information on the products I’ve mentioned, give us a call at 815-877-9700. We are always ‘at your service’.

After the Heatwave

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

We wanted to give you some summertime reminders since this time of year presents some particular security and safety issues.

Don’t Make It Too Easy for a Burglar

After this summer heatwave is over, it will be tempting to open up windows  to let some nice summer breezes through our screen doors. Often, however, we forget to close and lock our windows and doors, leaving our homes vulnerable to intruders when we are away.  Windows should not be left open when you are not home. If it is necessary, sash pins can keep windows from being raised more than just a few inches. Window contacts that connect to a home security system can still allow windows to be raised, just not above  four or five inches. That’s enough for ventilation, but not enough for a person to squeeze through and enter your home.

 

Not only do we leave windows open when we are gone, but we give easier access to burglars while doing yard work or hanging out in the back yard. It’s so common to leave the garage door or  storage shed open while doing yard work. It gives us easy access to tools . It also gives easy access to a thief.  An easy rule is: if you are out of line-of-sight of a door, close and lock it.  Put away tools and equipment if you have to leave the house, even for a quick trip to the hardware store or garden center.  Someone could easily come by and help themselves while you are away.

 

Several news articles on Rock County incidents as well as some simple advice from the Loves Park Police Department:

Rock County Burglaries  

Loves Park Police Advice

 

Fan Safety

Trying to keep cool is always a challenge. If you use ceiling fans, be sure they are mounted properly. A wobbly fan can loosen the screws that hold the fan blades in place. You don’t want a fan blade coming loose and damaging your home or injuring someone.  Believe it or not, nearly 20,000 injuries a year are caused by ceiling fans! Be careful where you place portable fans and ensure that the cord is not in the way of foot traffic. Pedestal fans, in particular, are easily knocked over. Be sure to place them on a fat, solid surface.

 

Hot Weather Tips for Pet Owners

Many of us have pets who are very important to us. They need some extra care in the summertime, during and after summer’s hottest days. The Humane Society of America gives us some great tips for keeping your pet safe this summer. Summer Pet Tips