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Security, Safety and More

Pragmatic Halloween Safety Tips

by Scott Kimball on 10/24/11

I’ve always enjoyed Halloween – not for the spooky decorations or parties – it always has been “trick or treating,” both as a child and as a parent.

I really got a kick out of taking my children around the neighborhood in their early years.  It’s amazing how much energy a 4 or 5 year old has on the last day of October and how much geography their little legs can cover.

My last experience ‘trick or treating’ was 10 years ago with my granddaughter, Jordan.  She was nearly 3, and didn’t understand why mom was fixing her up in ‘fun clothes,’ but was enjoying every minute of it.  After a series of pictures, it was time to go with Papa.

I remember the first house we visited, our neighbor.  I walked up the driveway with her and stopped about 10 feet from the door and told her to go ahead and knock on it.  She did as I asked, and was lauded with praise on how cute she was.  They put some candy in her plastic pumpkin and returned with an excited smile.  The second, neighbor was pretty much the same, but at the third house, her expression changed.  It was an expression of comprehension that all she had to do was knock on the door and say, “trick or treat,” and people would give her candy.

Ensuring Halloween is fun and not a nightmare
  • The carved jack-o-lantern is a time honored tradition for Halloween.  Did you know 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins were grown last year.  Here’s another interesting tidbit – according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), Halloween ranks in the top three holidays for ER visits for children.  Finger and hand injuries are the biggest proportion of injuries.  As such, you may want to rethink giving your youngster a sharp knife to carve a pumpkin.
  • Another sad statistic is the number of pedestrian traffic deaths for children ages 5-14 is four times higher on Halloween than any other time of the year.  
Here are some pragmatic suggestions to consider:
  • Fix your youngsters their favorite meal, give them hearty servings and insist they clean their plate before you allow them out.  It will cut down on them eating too much candy before bedtime.
  • If your children are between the ages of 3-8, accompany them.  If that’s not possible, ensure they’re going out with one of your trusted friends.
  • Dress your goblins, ghosts and monsters in bright clothes or costumes.  Also, make sure their outfit isn’t too long that might result in tripping stepping over curbs or climbing stairs.
  • Make-up is a much better idea than masks.  Masks tend to block vision.
  • Flashlight is always a good idea.
  • Children ages 9-14 will probably want to go out with their friends.  You need to know where they’re going, so have them plan their route for you.  Or you can plan their route for them.  Either way, check the route against the county’s sex-offender registry - http://www.gwinnettcountysheriff.com/index.php/sex-offenders/
  • Equip them with a watch and set a time for them to be home.
  • Teenagers 15+ should not be allowed to run the streets.  Let them stay at home with you to hand out the treats.  If that’s not going to work, the mall is a safe alternative.  If they want to go to a party, get acquainted with the hosts, if you don’t already know them.
I’m sure there are more pragmatic suggestions for Halloween that I haven’t thought of.  If you can think of any, reply to this post and share them.

VoIP + Alarm System = Problems

by Scott Kimball on 07/12/11

Do you have a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone service such as Vonage, Clear, Magic Jack, etc?  If so, you're one of 120-million people worldwide who have switched over, and it's estimated another 45-million will make the same switch in the next four years.  VoIP is no longer an emerging technology - it has emerged.

The sun is setting on POTS (plain old telephone system.  The major telephone companies have also decided to make the switch to digital.  In five to seven years, analog telephone signals transmitting through telephone lines will become a thing of the past.  Everyone's phone will be digital.

Next question.  Do you have an alarm system?  If so, there is a problem.  Alarm signals transmitting through VoIP services is like mixing water and oil.  

The problem is VoIP's inability to accurately reproduce the sounds or pulses the alarm panel transmits.  Another problem exists with the fluctuations caused by the compression technology VoIP uses. This results in hit and miss alarm signal transmission, or works today - doesn't tomorrow.

The only sure solution is to not use VoIP for alarm transmission. For alarm companies, the conventional fix is the installation of a GSM (Global System for Mobile) cellular transmitter.  Unfortunately, that fix carries with it a $300-400 add-on cost to your alarm system, an additional fee to your monthly monitoring bill and an extention to the term of your monitoring contract.  All this tends to offset the cost savings you thought your were getting when you changed to VoIP, doesn't it?

A superior solution for less than half the cost.

Aegis Technology now has its own BBAC - Broadband Alarm Communicator.  Its price is only $129.  It's a plug and play device designed for alarm transmission.  Since the BBAC transmits its signals independently through the internet, the problem with VoIP becomes null and void.

Aegis Technology offers two, easy to swallow, service options with its BBAC.
1.  You can use it with your current monitoring service.  The BBAC service fee is only $55 a year or $30 for six months.
2.  Or you can opt for monitoring service from Aegis Technology for only $19.95 a month, with no contract.  Thee BBAC service fee is included in the price.

The BBAC also offers some advance features such as latch key text messaging to know when your kids come home from school, in addition to e-mail/text alerts when an alarm occurs.  For more details and other features and benefits, go to: http://www.aegis-technology.com/VoIP---Alarms.html.

Home Security and Vacations

by Scott Kimball on 06/25/11


Planning a vacation can be a lot of fun. But, on the other hand, preparing for it can be a royal pain.  Here are some safety and security tips you can employ so you can enjoy your vacation with the peace of mind that you've done everything to keep the home front safe and sound while you're away.

Who to Notify:
  • The Post Office.
  • The Newspaper delivery department.
  • Notify the police the dates you will be away.
  • A trusted neighbor.  They can return your trash can that you put out and/or pick up the newpaper(s) and mail that get delivered, in spite of your efforts.  If your neighbor can be trusted with a key, all the better.  They can check in and around the house while you're gone and take care of something you might have overlooked, like the bananas spoiling in the fruit bowl.  If you do give a neighbor a key, it's best to program a user code they can easily remember into your security system  and find out the password they would remember in case they accidentally set-off your alarm system.
  • With the above in mind, notify your monitoring service the dates you will be gone and, if possible, how to contact you if there is an emergency.  Also give them the name of your neighbor who has your permission to enter your home and the password they will be using.
  • Very, very important - do not broadcast the fact that you will away on twitter, facebook, etc., and in the same vein, don't put a message on your answering machine that you're on vacation.
  • It's a good idea to get automatic timers for your lights that can be programmed to go on and off at prescribed times.  You can find them at Lowes or Home Depot.
  • Don't hide house keys under the door mat, outside planter, etc.
  • Make sure all jewelry and other such valuable are locked up.
  • Turn off and unplug computers, televisions and other high-end electronics to protect against electrical surges from thunder storms. 
  • Consume, give away or throw away any perishable food.  You will have enough to do when you return.  Deodorizing your home doesn't need to be on that list.
  • Before walking out the door to begin your much needed vacation, do a walk-through your house to ensure all windows are latched, deadbolts are bolted and sliding doors/windows track locks are locked or holding bars in place.
Now, go have a great vacation!  You deserve it.

Crimes Committed at Lilburn Elementary and Middle Schools

by Scott Kimball on 05/08/11

In doing some research for this web page, I found some interesting material when I conducted a Google search "Lilburn Crime Statistics." The search brought up what I was looking for, as well as pages on Lilburn demographics, home values, and registered sex offenders. What I didn't expect to see was Lilburn Middle School listed on page #1 for this search and Lilburn Elementary School later on.

Since all my children went through Lilburn Middle School, I had to find out what was going on. The website was from SchoolDigger.com and at first glance I didn't see anything relating to crime. However, on second glance it jumped out at me. This school is at the bottom of the barrel educationally in the state of Georgia, ranked 361 out of 467 middle schools.

Lilburn Elementary School didn't fare any better. It ranked 783 out of 1097 schools, and Hopkins, another Lilburn elementary school that my children attended, ranked 807th.

Gwinnett County Schools, overall, is doing a good job compared to other school districts in the state. It's ranked 24th out of 156 districts. So, what the heck is going on in Lilburn?

Now here's where it gets really pathetic. Georgia scrapes the bottom of the barrel when compared to the rest of the 50 states in education.

According to wiki.answers.com:

  • Georgia ranks 45th based on SAT scores
  • Georgia ranks 41st based on Morgan Quinto Smartest State (2006-2007)
  • Georgia ranks 47th based on Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate for Public High School Students

So, when you think about it, this is truly a crime being perpetuated against children in our Lilburn schools.  

Perhaps we should give special recognition to the “professional educators” in these schools, too.  Think of their accomplishments – being instrumental in their school’s position as one of the worst schools in one of the worst states in education.

Now, there’s a line item for a resume! 

What do you think?