Home Safety and Security

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A Mediaplanet Guide to Home Security and Pool Safety

Home Safety & Security

Bode & Morgan Miller Master pool safety with advice from former Olympic skier Bode Miller and his wife Morgan Beck Miller

Learn the ABC’s of water safety, it might save a life Protect your children from drowning with these lifesaving precautions


An Independent Supplement by Mediaplanet to USA Today


Mina Starsiak Hawk on Home Safety In this exclusive interview, famed home renovator Mina Starsiak Hawk, star of HGTV’s “Good Bones,” and author of the children’s book Built Together, shares her valuable insights into home safety and security.

What made you interested in becoming a realtor and home renovator? After I graduated from college, I wasn’t really sure what career I truly wanted to pursue. I knew that I didn’t want a desk job, and that I wanted something that didn’t limit my creativity. When I purchased my first home, my mom and I renovated it ourselves, and it just eventually grew into so much more. We began to revitalize more homes in our own neighborhood, and it eventually grew into our own dream business.


What do you look for in a house specifically to make sure it’s safe for new families and homeowners? Do you do anything specific to address home safety and security when you are renovating a house?

How do you ensure safety in your own home?

We take serious precaution when dealing with unsafe foundations in our homes. We ensure that the homes we revitalize have a safe and sturdy foundation. Also, we always make sure our homes are inspected and up to code.

What precautions do you take in your home in order to ensure your kids are safe?


We use security cameras in each room of my home. We also have a security doorbell to ensure surveillance around my entire home.

We use child safety locks on each of our kitchen cabinets, electrical outlet plug inserts, and cordless blinds.

We also make sure that the batteries in our carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are always up to date. What would you tell future homeowners on helping them to ensure their homes are safe? I would recommend that future homeowners make sure to be aware of lead paint if they are purchasing an older home, as exposure can lead to long-lasting side effects. Also, to invest in a home security system, in order to ensure safety surveillance around the entire home. n



Publisher Devan Schwartz Business Developer Joelle Hernandez Managing Director Luciana Olson Lead Designer Tiffany Pryor Designer Kayla Mendez Lead Editor Mina Fanous Copy Editor David Spector Partnership and Distribution Manager Jordan Hernandez Director of Product Faye Godfrey Cover Photo Stephen J. Cohen, Getty Images All photos are credited to Getty Images unless otherwise specified. This section was created by Mediaplanet and did not involve USA Today.




Protecting your home from home invasions requires state-of-the-art technology. Here’s what you need to keep your home safe.


A lone camera is not an alarm system Burglars don’t only come through the front door ­— look for a fully-integrated professional alarm system, designed to protect the whole premises, along with integrated video cameras. A professional security system doesn’t rely on you to discover the intruder or an emergency condition by your constantly looking on your phone or out over your doorbell cam. You’ve got your own busy life and job to do. A professional security system’s No. 1 job is life safety — detecting any hint of danger, with strategically-placed motion-, contact-, smoke-, or carbon monoxide-sensors, and providing the critical response only a professionally-monitored system can. Whether you’re on-premises, away, or have fallen incapacitated, a pro system will automatically call out for the help you need. But, you’re always free to check in on the app and have it send you, or anyone else, text messages or video clips when there’s news.


Why 2 is better than 1 A professional wireless alarm system is more than just an all-in-one touchscreen, that’s quickly undone. Look for a system with a remote hub, that can be hidden out-of-sight to protect you

Things to Always Remember When Choosing a Smart Security System and itself better. A 2-piece hub security system design, has a hub placed in an inconspicuous area, that works in conjunction with your choice of a keypad or pretty touchscreen, but prevents criminals from disabling it. That’s much better than an “all-in-one”, prone to what’s also known as the “smash-and-grab”, where an intruder breaks in and immediately breaks/bats the all-in-one alarm system off the wall, killing its ability to sound the alarm and call the police for you.


Cellular reporting In case of emergency —don’t get hung up on old landlines — Insist on today’s fast cellular alarm system reporting. Your security system’s principle job is communicating alarms to get the police or fire department dispatched to your home or business emergency. Traditionally, this was done by dialing out to your alarm company’s monitoring center via telephone lines. But storm-prone, costly, old landlines have been disappearing nationwide — left unreplaced and/or “retired” by today’s phone companies. Don’t let your alarm system communications be surprisingly disconnected. Cellular reporting of alarm events, for residential and business, security and fire, is a quick and easy add-on to any brand system. It’s proven to meet all life-safety codes and enable faster emergency response, when seconds translate to lives saved. A double-benefit, with cellular reporting, there’s no more

phonelines for burglars to “cut” and you may even save money over leased-lines. Cellular communications are supervised to always get through on the nations’s most cyber-protected multibillion dollar networks.


Do your research If you’re sick, you look for the best specialist; if you want to buy a car, you research the best, most reliable one. Find out who’s making your security system, too. Remember, alarms made either by unknown companies, or those better-known for DIY products or online shopping, or mega-conglomerates busy making everything from thermostats to defense equipment and engines to elevators, may not provide the best possible security for you. When it comes to protecing your home, loved ones, business or assets, it pays to be choosy and seek out the right security alarm installation company. One that installs a system made by a purely-focused, top manufacturer, with a track-record for security reliability millions-of-systems-strong, (i.e., whose only business is making smart systems for homes and businesses like yours). And, make sure the installation company backs it all up with professional alarm monitoring, with a central station staffed 24/7 by operators well-trained to instantly vet, verify, and dispatch the help you need. n Richard Soloway, CEO, NAPCO Security

The Hosts of “And That’s Why We Drink” Share Their Top Home Security Tips Few know the importance of home safety and security like Em Schulz and Christine Schiefer. Since 2017, they have hosted the true crime and paranormal podcast “And That’s Why We Drink” — its 200th episode recorded in December. Schulz and Schiefer have researched thousands of stories about terrible things happening to people in their homes, which solidified the importance of taking all possible home security precautions. They both point out there are plenty of affordable, low-tech, home security practices that can prevent home invasions. Home security vulnerabilities are often created by overlooking the basics. “People will look for a window, an easy entry point, an unlocked door, really just the basic stuff you don’t think about, or you might forget.” Schulz said. “Lock the door, that’s the big thing.” Schiefer says it’s important to trust your gut when making decisions about safety, at home or on the go. To friends and listeners, she often recommends Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear,” which discusses the human body’s natural safety instincts. “We’re taught to override those,” Schiefer said. “He tells you how to trust when your body is telling you, ‘Leave this situation, leave this room, this person can’t be trusted,’ even when your mind is telling you everything’s fine.” Latest and greatest There’s never been more options for tech and tools on the market that can help you protect yourself, your family, and your home. Schulz recommends window-glass sensors and window film for securing access points and improving privacy. “Window glass sensors detect if the window opens or if glass breaks, there’ll be an alarm,” Schulz said. “Window film is a blackout privacy thing, so people can’t see through your window.” Other deterrents for home invaders are smart lights that can be activated remotely to make it look like you’re home, and smart doorbells that let you see who is at your door or around your property. The key is to remember to activate them, and to continue listening to your instincts. Dustin Brennan



Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning and Other Facts Parents Should Know Drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental death for children under four and the second leading cause of accidental death for children under 14.

Prioritize Pool and Spa Safety for a Safer Backyard Families must frequently assess their home — both inside and out — for dangers to children. As summer approaches, it is essential to make pool and spa safety a top priority.

Facts about drowning • Drowning is silent, it is not like the movies with splashing and screaming. • Nine out of 10 drowning deaths happen when a caregiver isn’t paying attention. Seventy-seven percent of those involved in a home drowning were missing for no more than five minutes. • Seventy percent of drowning victims weren’t expected to be in or near the pool at that time. Steps to safeguard against drowning • Swim lessons between the ages of one and four reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent. • Assign an adult to be a “water watcher.” • Caregivers should know CPR and how to swim. • Blow rafts, rings, water wings, and floats are not safety devices. • Pools should have complete four-sided isolation fencing with a self-locking gate. Fencing could prevent 50-90 percent of child drownings. • Don’t leave any toys in the pool area. Lisa M. Zarda, CAE, CNAP, Executive Director, United States Swim School Association



Pool and spa safety are always important, but amid the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, they are especially important, as families continue to spend more time enjoying backyard and portable pools at home. Data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that fatal child pool and spa drownings are on the rise, and residential locations comprise a majority of reported fatal drowning incidents. You can help to reverse this trend by taking simple steps to make pools and spas safer. Even if you already practice water safety, an extra safety step could mean the difference between experiencing a close call, or calling 911. Install layers of protection Child drownings can and do happen, outside of designated swimming times, often when children gain access to a pool or spa without an adult’s knowledge. Barri-

ers, including a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate, alarms for the house or pool, and a power safety cover over the pool or spa, provide lifesaving layers of protection. Successful pool barriers prevent children from getting over, under, or through the barrier to keep them from gaining access to the pool without adult supervision. Check your drains We recommend that your pool or spa has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards. This includes complying with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (VGB Act), which mandates that all public pool and spa circulation systems be outfitted with a properly installed anti-entrapment drain cover fitting. Compliant drains have a curved structure that prevents the drain from becoming fully blocked by a body part. If you are not sure about whether a drain is compliant, inspect the drain for proper labeling, and ask your pool service provider about safer drain covers. Never leave a child unattended Drowning is quick and silent.

Often, drowning can go unnoticed if adults are distracted. Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult 'water watcher.' Water watchers are singularly focused on observing children in the water. Water watchers should not be reading, texting, using a smartphone, or otherwise be distracted while on duty. Water watchers should be prepared to call 911, quickly locate and use onsite pool safety equipment, and administer CPR in case of an emergency. Learn essential skills Lifesaving skills, like knowing how to swim and perform CPR, are essential for everyone, especially if your home has a pool or spa. All children and adults should learn how to swim. Bystanders are often first to aid a drowning victim, so learning CPR can also help save a life. By following these tips, you can have peace of mind for a summer season that is safer and more fun. You never know which safety step might save a life, until it does. n Nikki Fleming, Pool Safety Campaign Lead, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission


The Gate Protecting Your Kids From Drowning Making sure young children can’t gain unsupervised access to the family pool is the most important thing you’ll do today.


One of the most dangerous places in your home is the family pool. For children under the age of 5, drowning is one of the leading causes of death, and most drowning incidents occur in home swimming pools. “Drowning doesn’t look like what you think it does,” says Blake Collingsworth, president of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA). “You think you might hear someone call for help, but that’s not how it works. You go into a panic mode, and you’re more worried about getting air rather than using your air to make a sound. That’s why they call it a ‘silent death.’” Layers of security Many parents think installing fencing around the pool is sufficient, but in order for fencing to be optimally effective it must fully enclose the pool. Properly maintained gates with functioning, adjustable, self-latching gate latches, and self-closing gate hinges are also critical. “According to research in Australia, approximately 30 percent of all toddler drownings occur because gate hinges and latches are not regularly checked or are faulty,” notes David Calabria, president and CEO of D&D Technologies, a leading manu-

facturer of high-performance gate hardware and co-founder of the NDPA. It is reported that another 30 percent gain access through a gate that has been propped open and forgotten. Calabria suggests that parents physically check pool gates regularly — and definitely before pool season begins. This means ensuring the gate closes and latches from any position by testing it. If it doesn’t, the hinges and latch, or even the gate or fence, may need adjustment. Self-closing hinges like D&D’s TruClose® self-closing (adjustable-tension) hinges or SureClose® hydraulic self-closing hinges are key. The tension of the hinges should be adjusted to ensure that they overcome resistance from the weight of the gate and wind.

The other critical aspect is the latch. “The most effective latching mechanism for swimming pool safety gates is a magnetic latch that has horizontal and vertical adjustment features,” Calabria adds. D&D’s MagnaLatch® Safety Gate Latch uses magnetic technology to produce a latch that is toddler-resistant, safe, and reliable — when properly maintained and adjusted. Beyond the fence Collingsworth, who founded the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation after losing his own son in a tragic pool accident, endorses self-closing hinges and magnetic latches. “D&D makes a great product,” he says. “I have three of them on my gates at home.”

Collingsworth notes that D&D manufactures a gate latch model that includes an alarm. The MagnaLatch® ALERT from D&D, for example, has built-in visual and audible alarms that are activated if the gate is not latched after 15 seconds. Other technologies, like cameras with sonar alerts and Bluetooth-connected apps that can alert you through your phone when activity is detected around the pool, can also help keep everyone safe. Just as important, Collingsworth advocates education and mindfulness. “Getting your children water-capable is a huge part,” he says. Another aspect of pool safety is ensuring an adult is always paying attention. “We really promote water-watcher tags.

You can take turns passing this lanyard around and just saying, ‘Hey, you wear this and for the next 15 minutes you’re not on your phone, you’re not reading a book, you’re just sitting there counting heads and keeping an eye on the kids.” Calabria is just as passionate about this issue. “Due to our involvement in the industry, we have met many parents on our travels who have tragically lost children due to a backyard pool drowning,” he says. “Reducing toddler drownings became D&D Technologies’ core mission.” Calabria’s closing advice is clear. “Ultimately there is no substitute for adult supervision,” he says. “As a parent, moving into a new home with a swimming pool or installing a new pool comes with the potential for a lot of fun for the family — but an enormous responsibility is also attached.” n Jeff Somers

D&D Technologies, MagnaLatch® and TruClose® gate hardware can be purchased from your local fence dealer, on Amazon, or at Home Depot or Lowes.



Bode Miller and His Wife Morgan Miller on the Importance of Pool Safety Former Olympic skier Bode Miller and his wife Morgan Miller are warning parents to make pool safety a priority.

“A child under 30 pounds can drown in 30 seconds,” Beck Miller told 'The Today Show,' just days after the drowning.

The couple lost their 19-month-old daughter Emeline, “Emmy”, in June 2018, when she drowned in a pool at a neighbor’s home where the family was at a party.

Prevention Morgan Miller, a professional beach volleyball player, prays every day for the opportunity to go back to that day and make things different.

going outside without someone noticing.

She’s now focused on preventing other families’ heartbreak: “Now we have this opportunity to make other parents’ days different.” Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death for children ages one to four. Some of the main drowning risks are lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised

water access, lack of close supervision, or failure to wear life jackets. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges homeowners to install fencing that’s at least four feet high with no opening under it and surrounded on all four sides. They also suggest using safety gates, doorknob covers, and door locks to keep kids from

for answers,” Cohn explains. “I was surprised to learn that unintentional drowning in pools, lakes and oceans was an epidemic. I was determined to do whatever I could to protect other families.” The foundation began working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to pilot a water safety and swim camp. They’ve since expanded to partner with YMCAs, the American Red Cross, and local communities.

everyone needs to learn how to swim and CPR. D is for drain and device safety.” The Foundation has published a children’s book that teaches water safety, ‘The Polar Bear that Couldn’t, Wouldn’t Swim.’ “The book is about the bear’s journey through the zoo, learning how to swim,” Cohn says, noting that Zachary’s favorite stuffed animal was a polar bear. Cohn lays out some other pool safety fundamentals like removing toys from pools to eliminate temptation; at the beach, being aware of water conditions; and always designating an adult as a “water watcher.” The Foundation is working with community partners

Empowering kids These days, the Miller family includes twins Asher and Aksel, who started Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) self-rescue instruction when they were seven months old. Their older brother Easton, born after Emmy’s death, took ISR training too. He says the ISR training empowers kids — “Anywhere they encounter water, they’re going to have the right skill set traveling with them.” Morgan Miller encourages parents to teach their children swimming and water safety skills at a young age. “The skills that you learn to independently self-rescue are the most important things you can teach your child,” she says. n Kristen Castillo


Knowing the Dangers of Backyard Pools As summer approaches, here’s what parents need to know about water safety.

ing water safety. “It's not a lack of supervision — it's a lapse in supervision.””

The global lockdown has inspired a spike in pool sales. But summer fun brings real danger — drowning remains the leading cause of unintentional death for kids ages one to four years — and 71 percent of those deaths occur in a residential pool. Parents need to understand the danger. “It's about layers of protection,” says Karen Cohn, co-founder of The ZAC Foundation, an organization promot-

The ZAC Foundation Karen founded The ZAC Foundation in 2008 with her husband Brian to honor their son, Zachary Archer Cohn. Zachary drowned in their backyard pool when a loose drain cover came off and the powerful suction trapped him underwater while his frantic family tried to free him. “I was devastated when Zachary passed away and searched



The ABCDs One of the key concepts The ZAC Foundation promotes is the ABCDs of Water Safety. “The A is for adult supervision,” explains Cohn. “B is for barriers — fencing or gates. C is for classes —

across the country to develop plans to reduce drowning rates and are serving on the steering committee working towards the development of a national drowning prevention plan. “We feel like we have made some progress,” Cohn says, “but we still have a ways to go, especially in at-risk communities, where the risk for Black and Latinx children is even higher due to historic inequities in access to public swimming pools and swim instruction.” n Jeff Somers

To learn more about proper water safety, visit The ZAC Foundation at thezacfoundation.org

Can Your Family Safely Escape a Home Fire in Under Two Minutes? Every second counts when there’s a home fire. To help protect your household, test your smoke alarms monthly and practice your two-minute home fire escape drill.


ome fires are the nation’s most frequent d i s a s ter and claim more lives in a typical year than all natural disasters combined. Yet, most of us don’t realize we may have just two minutes to escape, according to an American Red Cross survey.

You can help protect you and your family by taking two simple steps: practice your two-minute home fire escape drill and test your smoke alarms monthly. Working smoke alarms are critical because they can cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half. Practice your two-minute escape drill

• Create a plan with at least two ways to exit every room in your home. • Select a meeting spot at a safe distance away from your home, such as your neighbor’s home or landmark like a specific tree in your front yard, where everyone knows to meet. • Practice until everyone in your household can get out in less than two minutes. • In addition, take time to discuss the plan with everyone in your household, including to stay low from rising smoke and touch closed doors with the back of your hand. If the doorknob is hot, it’s not safe to open that door. • Also teach household members to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes catch fire. Test your smoke alarms monthly • Place smoke alarms on each level of your home, including inside and outside bedrooms and sleeping areas. • After pressing the alarm’s test button, you should hear three beeps, letting you know the alarm is working. Don’t hear them? Change the batteries, which should be done at least once a year if your model requires it. • Check the manufacturer’s date of your smoke alarms. If they’re 10 years or older, they likely need to be replaced. Follow your alarm’s manufacturer instructions. • Teach children what a smoke alarm sounds like. Talk about fire safety and what to do in an emergency. Remember, if a fire occurs, get out, stay out, and call 911 for help. Never go back inside for anything or anyone. n Trevor Riggen, Senior Vice President, Disaster Cycle Services, American Red Cross

Prevent Fires While Spending More Time at Home Home fires can be prevented by following safe practices, including not overloading your electrical system and installing smoke alarms and required safety devices. Each year, electrical malfunctions account for 35,000 home fires causing over 1,130 injuries, 500 deaths, and $1.4 billion in property damage. Many older homes can’t handle the demands of today’s electrical appliances and devices. To prevent the deadly and damaging effects of a residential fire, be sure to avoid electrical hazards. As people continue to work or attend school from home, they should be aware of potential electrical hazards and how to prevent them. Avoid overloading outlets and unplug appliances, such as your laptop, when not using to save energy and minimize risk of shock or fire. Inspect electrical cords and extension cords for damage. Extension cords should be used temporarily, they aren’t meant to be a substitute for permanent wiring. Make sure extension cords do not become tripping hazards and never run them under rugs, carpets, doors, or windows. Use proper wattage for lighting. Never plug a space heater or fan into an extension cord or power strip. Always keep papers and other potential combustibles at least three feet away from heaters. Install smoke alarms inside and outside every bedroom, in basements, living rooms, dens, family rooms, near stairways leading to upper levels, and within 10 feet of cooking appliances to avoid false alarms. Use interconnected smoke alarms for additional safety and early warning. Low pitch sound and vibration smoke alarms are available for the hard of hearing. Remember to test smoke alarms monthly, change batteries yearly, and replace alarms every 10 years. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are safety devices that protect against electrical fires from malfunctions. It is estimated that 50 percent of home electrical fires can be prevented by proper AFCI protection. Home fires are more deadly and costly than ever. While the number of total fires and fire injuries is decreasing, property damage and deaths are on the rise. Many residential fires can be prevented by understanding basic electrical safety principles and adhering to safe practices. Brianne Deerwester, Communications Coordinator, Electrical Safety Foundation International



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