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Wood Stove Safety Tips

by Amy October 14, 2014


Despite the EPA’s ban on the majority of wood burning stoves in America, 2.4 million American homes still use wood as their primary heating source according to the 2011 US Census Bureau’s survey statistics.  This equals approximately 12% of homes in the US!

With October being fire safety prevention month, we feel like this is the perfect time to provide some valuable information on the proper usage and maintenance of wood burning stoves.  Many more homes will use fireplaces as well during the upcoming winter months and this information will be beneficial to those homeowners too..

Choose the Correct Fuel – When choosing the type of wood to burn in your stove it is always advised to pick a hardwood like maple, ash, beech, oak or hickory.  Hardwood, in comparison to softwood, burns much slower and will deliver much more heat.  The wood you will eventually burn needs to be split and dried for a minimum of one year before burning.  Certain climates with very low humidity like the deserts of Arizona may only take 6-8 months to dry out your wood, but a year is recommended.  Hardwood that is well seasoned will show obvious cracks in the end grain once properly dried and sounds hollow when tapped against another piece of dried wood.

Create a Cleaning Schedule – At least once every year you should clean your stovepipe and chimney using a wire brush.  You can also use controlled, high temperature fires occasionally to help burn off any build up in your wood stove.  We suggest that you do not use the salt-based chemical cleaners to do the job, as they can create quite a mess unless you are very familiar with its application process.  We highly recommend that you never use heavy objects tied to a rope such as bricks or chains to try and clean your chimney.  This can cause significant damage.  If you are not confident in your ability to perform this cleaning task you may want to pursue help from a professional chimney sweep company.

Watch for Creosote Buildup – Modern, air-tight stoves often burn fires at low temperatures to help preserve fuel.  The temperature in the flue will commonly be between 100 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. At these low temperatures the heat is not strong enough to carry all of the combustible gas particles completely out of the chimney.  These particles then condense inside the walls of your stovepipe and chimney as creosote.  Creosote can form in 3 different states.

  1. Creosote can form as a sticky liquid that will eventually run down into the fire and be burned off on its own.
  2. Creosote can form as a dry, flaky black deposit that you will be able to brush off with a stiff wire brush.
  3. The third form Creosote can take is a solid tar that becomes glazed over and can be next to impossible to remove.  Chances are that you will need the help of a professional to have it thoroughly removed.

To help combat creosote buildup it is suggested that you install stovepipe thermometers to help you monitor low flue temperatures.  You should also always keep your air inlets on your stove open.  Restricting the air supply only helps creosote to form which can eventually lead to a chimney fire.

Protecting Your Home from the Outside – One of the best safety tips to protect your home is to install a mesh screen spark arrester on top of your chimney.  This will help to prevent any rogue sparks from exiting your home and starting a fire outside.  You will also want to make sure all tree branches near your chimney are removed or cut back to a safe distance.  Keep your roof clear of any flammable debris like pine needles and leaves.  The last outdoor safety tip is to keep your wood pile at least 30 feet from your home.  You don’t want a cord of wood to catch fire near your home.

Protecting Your Home from the Inside – It goes without saying that you will need a minimum of one smoke detector or fire alarm in every room of your house.  These alarms need to be tested at least once a month to ensure they are working properly.  The installation of the wood stove itself needs to be vented properly with all vent pipes extending a minimum of three feet above the top of your home.  Also be sure that all materials near or on your wood stove are fire resistant.  Combustible personal items left too close to wood stoves are common culprits for household fires.

Using Your Wood Stove and Building a Fire – Always use the proper fuel to start a fire.  Clean newspaper and small kindling work the best. Never use a flammable liquid to start a fire in your stove.  Cardboard, trash and other debris should not be used to start or fuel your fire.  For best results burn a hot, bright fire.  You can adjust the intensity of the heat by adjusting the size of the fire.  As the fire burns down to coals you will want to rake the coals into a mound toward the wood stove door and air inlet.  Do not rake the coals flat.  To increase your fire’s intensity it is suggested you add three pieces of wood at a time.  Place them on or behind the mound of coals you have created.  Try to avoid adding only one piece of wood at a time.

When it comes time to remove the ash be sure they have been allowed to cool completely before disposing of them.  You will want to keep the ashes in a metal container with a tight cover.  Always store these ashes at least 10 feet from any flammable structure and never empty them directly into a trash receptacle.  It is also advisable to soak the ashes with water before finally disposing of them.

Discover What No One Ever Tells You About Home Fire Alarm Systems & Home Smoke Detectors

by Derek October 9, 2014


Everywhere you turn people tout the safety offered by home smoke detectors. Fire safety officials, government officials, and retailers throughout the country rave about home smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

There’s something about most of these smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors however that you don’t know, vital information that impacts your safety.

Most smoke detectors will simply burn up with your home. They won’t summon the fire department to send help for you or to fight the fire.

The vast majority of smoke detectors for sale at big box stores and other retailers are designed to only make a sound upon activation inside your home. The hope is that the fire alarm sounding will notify the occupants that a fire is present so they can leave safely.

They aren’t designed to summon help when needed. They aren’t designed to eliminate fire damage at your home.

That’s why it’s best to have monitored smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. These detectors send an alarm signal to an alarm monitoring center when they detect smoke or carbon monoxide. They also activate a loud siren inside the home to let occupants know it’s time to leave the home due to a fire emergency.

Monitored smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors can be tied into most burglar alarm systems, making them quite affordable and practical for the average homeowner. They’ll also notify the monitoring center if they’ve lost power or are operating on battery back-up.

You can get monitored smoke detectors and fire detectors from any reliable home security company. We’d be happy to help you too. Feel free to call us at (855) 334-6562 for more information.

It’s Fire Prevention Week – Help Spread the Word That Monitored Home Smoke Detectors Save Lives!

by Cassie October 7, 2014


Fire Prevention Week is October 5-11, 2014. This week is sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association. This year’s theme is “Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month.”

Fire Prevention Week was established by President Woodrow Wilson as a way of commemorating the Great Chicago Fire. The Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people and left more than 100,000 homeless on October 8-9, 1871. This fire forced Americans and fire officials to change the way they viewed fire safety, fire alarms, and fire prevention.

Nearly 40 years after the Great Chicago Fire, it was decided to commemorate the anniversary of the fire with a day to keep the public informed about fire safety, fire alarms, and fire prevention. The importance of high public awareness of these issues was emphasized by expanding this awareness program to an entire week during a period in which October 9 falls.

Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record.

At My Alarm Center, we’ve developed an interactive checklist you can use to see how safe your home and family is from accidental fires. It is part of our efforts to keep people informed about fire prevention, fire alarms, and fire safety.

We’ve also developed a printable checklist tool to help make your home safe from fire, and we’d be happy to send you free wall clings to remind people to turn off appliances and practice fire safety.

Use sound fire safety and fire prevention practices in your home. And if you’re interested in getting monitored home smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, call us toll free at (855) 334-6562 for more information.

How to Review Your Home Security Alarm System

by Tammy October 2, 2014


When was the last time you took a good look at your home security alarm?

Remember back when you had your home security system installed? I’m sure you had at least one discussion with your home security system representative about protection details like window openings, door openings, door locks, glass protection, pets, access to your home, crime in your area, and lots of other issues.

From that information, your home security company representative designed a system to protect your home and family. And if you are like most people, you haven’t thought much about it since.

It’s a good idea to review your home security plan and home security system. Half of all homeowners have major renovation projects planned in the next two years. Lifestyles change, crime trends change and law enforcement response to alarm conditions change.

Is this the right time for you to take a look at your home security system? Take our quick quiz below to see if you should take a look at your home security – no matter how long you’ve been with your current alarm company.

Do any of the following 7 statements apply to you?

  • You can’t remember the last time you spoke with your home security company.
  • You’re not confident that your current home security system will adequately protect your family against break-ins, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Your home security alarm system has been monitored and serviced by the same provider for more than 5 years.
  • You’ve completed or are considering one or more major remodeling projects since installing your home security system.
  • You’ve added a pet to your household.
  • You don’t know if your personal property or collections are adequately protected.
  • You’re not sure if you are getting maximum allowable insurance credits for your home security alarm system.

If any of these statements apply to your current situation, it’s time for you to get a home security system review. Contact any reputable company (like My Alarm Center) to arrange your review today.

5 Traits Of Excellent Home Security Alarm Companies

by Cassie September 25, 2014

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As someone who has worked in the home security industry since 1983, I offer you the top five traits of outstanding home security companies:


1. Zero Mistake Mentality.

With home security, there are no second chances. Excellent home security companies recognize that your home security system and alarm monitoring must work exactly as designed, each and every time it is needed. They use only the finest security equipment and procedures and hire the very best people to help protect you.


2. Passion.

Employees of the home security company must have a passion for home security and protecting people just like you. Passion drives them to excellence in each and everything they do. Spend some time talking to technicians and office personnel of a security company. You’ll quickly be able to spot those disenchanted with their jobs or their profession.


3. Segment Specific Knowledge.

Excellent home security companies specialize in what they do. They spend time sharpening their knowledge and craft until they become home security system experts. They understand the latest in home security and home automation technology and apply it properly to bring the most benefit to you.


4. Community Involvement.

Outstanding home security companies work hard to make the communities they work in safer places to live. They support community initiatives to cut crime and help residents. They are active participants in trade associations that promote home security best practices. If a home security company is not active in supporting its community or industry, don’t do business with them.


5. Commitment to Customers.

Sure, everyone talks about providing good customer service. Excellent security companies actually do it. Check online reviews about the company. Look for testimonials on their website. Ask for a list of customers you can speak with about their service. Check with the Better Business Bureau and state licensing agencies.


When investing in a home security system, the home security company you choose is the most important decision you make. Select wisely, and look beyond the price to see the company protecting you and your family.

4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Home Security Service

by Amy September 23, 2014


There are very simple steps you can take to boost your home security service, and the first one is understanding how you may be vulnerable.

To figure out where you are vulnerable, you have to assess your security system needs and weaknesses. That means reviewing your behaviors, needs and present measures so you can formulate a security plan.

Less than 25% of all homes have a security alarm system, and even less have a home security plan. To get a handle on your home security, follow these guidelines:

  1. Check the crime stats in your neighborhood. Location can play a role in crime levels. Check with your local police department for crime information in your neighborhood. Learn the types of crime being committed and determine your risk levels accordingly. You can also get information on how the crime level compares in your community with other cities from Sperling’s Best Places.
  1. Improve the locks on your doors and windows. Use deadbolt door locks on all doors except sliding doors. Use high quality solid metal with no screws exposed on the exterior. Make sure the throw bolt is at least one inch long. Invest in special keyed locks for sliding doors and windows, which you can easily find at your local hardware store.
  1. Join a neighborhood watch group. These programs build strong neighborhoods. They reduce crime and help home values. Contact your local police department about joining or starting a neighborhood watch program in your area.
  1. Invest in a good home security monitoring system. We wrote about how burglars select which home to rob, and the evidence is overwhelming that they avoid attacking homes with a home security system. Investing in a monitored home security system can be your best move to boost home security. And with many systems being wireless and portable in nature, you can even take them with you should you move!

Little actions make big differences. Take these steps to boost your home security today!

Should Police Officers Wear Body Cameras?

by Derek September 18, 2014


As a taxpayer, would you support buying body cameras to be worn by police officers to record everything that transpires between them and citizens?

Many communities are considering using body cameras, especially in light of the recent happenings in Ferguson, Missouri.

Body cameras are about the size of a pager and are commonly worn as part of an officer’s uniform. They may even be mounted on helmets or possibly on new products like Google Glass. They cost about $300 to $400 per camera.

The intent behind using these tamper-proof body cameras is to provide an objective record of an encounter between an officer and a citizen.

The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that Rialto, Calif., whose entire police force has the security cameras, saw a reduction in the use of force by officers of 60%, and a whopping 88% decline in citizen complaints against police.

Many psychologists believe these declines can be attributed to a change in human behavior caused by people (both police and citizens) knowing that someone is watching them. They also believe there are less citizen complaints when there are video records of their behavior.

Most police departments equip their patrol vehicles with dashboard cameras, and have been doing so since the mid-1990s.

There are privacy concerns about using body cameras. In order to be fair, some people argue that the security cameras would need to be turned on during every encounter, and not simply at the discretion of the officer.

Do you think police officers should wear body cameras? Share with us your opinion in the comments section below this post.

Thank a Seattle Police Officer

by Derek September 16, 2014


Police work can be a tough and demanding job. Many times citizens under-appreciate the effort put forth by employees of the Seattle Police Department.

All of us at My Alarm Center Security support the fine work done by the Seattle Police. That’s why we encourage Seattle citizens to use the online “thank you” form on the City of Seattle website. It’s your way to give thanks to the police department employees and their supervisors for a job well-done.

There are also other great safety resources available to you from the Seattle Police Department. Some of our favorites include:

Other Seattle Police Department Items of Interest include:

  • Precinct Phone Numbers:

North Precinct (206) 684-0794
South Precinct (206) 386-9180
East Precinct (206) 684-4370
West Precinct (206) 684-8996
Southwest Precinct (206) 615-1976

We encourage your complete support of the Seattle Police Department. Thank an officer for their good work today!

5 Great Reasons to Contact Your Home Security Alarm System Company

by Tammy September 11, 2014

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Some people only think about their home security company when they install a security system and when the alarm activates.

That’s not enough.

You should know your home security company like you know your neighbors. They’re the ones working to keep you safe and it’s simply counterproductive to only interact with them when it’s time to pay your bill or in an emergency.

Here are five very good reasons to contact your security alarm company:

  • You’re leaving on vacation. Make sure your home security company is properly prepared for your trip. Let them know how long you’ll be gone. Let them know if your house will be empty or if you’ll have a house sitter. Share with them any concerns you may have so they are fully prepared to do their best for you.
  • You are renovating your house. The smallest of home improvement projects can impact the way your security system works. Before installing new fixtures, cabinets, rooms or flooring, contact your home security company. They’ll assess the situation with you and, if necessary, most will send someone to your home for free to see if you need to modify your protection.
  • You need to update your emergency contact list. This list is kept on file by the alarm monitoring company so they know who to notify when you can’t be reached in an emergency. It’s important for your safety that this emergency contact list be accurate and up-to-date. We suggest contacting your home alarm monitoring company around Thanksgiving each year to ensure the accuracy of your information.
  • If you are moving. Any time you put your home up for sale, contact your home security company. Lots of false alarms are created by realtors showing homes for sale. Your home security company will review with you best practice tips to keep your home safe and secure while it’s being sold.
  • Anytime you have a question or concern. It’s perfectly O.K. to contact your home security alarm company if you have questions. That’s what you pay them for and most companies would welcome your call. Make sure you are up-to-date using current home alarm technology. Ask about those home security camera systems you see everyone using on their smartphones. Use your home security company for what they are – your home security protection specialists.

Would you like more free tips about how to protect your home, yourself and your family members? Then like My Alarm Center on Facebook. You can even leave us a message to simply say hello!

20 School Bus Safety Tips for Parents and Children from My Alarm Center

by Amy September 10, 2014

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It’s back to school time in communities across America. That means more than 23 million children taking a bus to school.

The school bus transportation system is one of the largest in the country.  However, more than 17,000 school kids end up in emergency rooms getting emergency services each year due to school bus related accidents.

That’s why My Alarm Center Home Security offers these tips for parents and kids to reduce the likelihood of school bus accidents or accidents at the school bus stop:

1. Walk with your child to the bus stop. Wait with them until the bus arrives. Walk with your children until you feel they respond well in most situations.

2. Allow plenty of time to get to the bus stop. Avoid having to rush, as rushing can lead to injuries.

3. Don’t let kids listen to iPods or play handheld video games while walking to school or at the bus stop.  These items lead to distractions which could result in injury.

4. Children should never speak to strangers at the bus stop and should never enter the car of a stranger.  Children should head straight home if a stranger bothers them or tries to pick them up.

5. As the bus approaches, children should stand 3 giant steps away from the curb and wait to approach the bus until after it has come to a complete stop.

6. Make sure your kids use handrails when boarding and exiting the bus.

7. If kids drop things when boarding or exiting the bus, teach them to tell the bus driver first before attempting to retrieve the item. The goal is for the bus driver to see them and be aware of their activities before driving the bus.

8. Teach your children to go directly to a seat when boarding a bus and to sit facing forward for the entire ride. Remind them they must fasten seat belts if they are available.

9. Review all of the rules of the school district and bus driver to make sure your child understands them and complies with them.

10. Instruct your kids to keep the aisles clear at all times and not to play with the emergency exits.

11. Kids should talk quietly rather than yelling and screaming so the bus driver is not distracted.

12. Emphasize to your children to never throw things on the bus or out the windows.

13. Have the kids always stay seated when the bus is moving and make sure that they know to not put their head, feet, arms or hands out of the window.

14. Train your kids to always follow the instructions of the bus driver.

15. Children should never attempt to exit the bus until it comes to a complete stop.

16. If meeting your children at the bus stop after school, wait on the same side of the street where the child will be dropped off so they won’t have to cross the street alone.

17. Make sure your children know to never walk behind a bus (the driver may not see them).

18. If your children need to cross the street after leaving the bus, teach them to take 6 big steps in front of the bus, and then to make eye contact with the bus driver. Instruct them to cross when they know it is safe to do so.

19. Teach your kids to look both ways before crossing the street.

20 Have your children come straight home once they get off the bus so an adult knows they are safe and sound.

Keeping school kids safe on buses and at bus stops is important for all of us. If you have a safety tip we haven’t shared in this post, please leave it in the comments section below.

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