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With Sunday’s “Big Game” now history, we can draw some lessons to help us in everyday business. Perhaps the most important thing we can derive from the game is the importance of fielding great defense/security to protect our assets (or goal line, as the case may be).

Here are a few things that great football teams and great security teams have in common:

1. A defense tough enough to win:

As we saw last Sunday, defense wins championships. It just so happens that defense is our specialty. While you may not be defending the goal line, both a goal line and a home or office must have coordinated, hardened security as a backup. You probably aren’t going to hire some linebacker to block out criminals, but alarms and surveillance systems that summon first responders are the equivalent of a good defense.

2. Identifying the most important assets and protecting them adequately.

In the case of football, it’s obviously the football/goal line, then the quarterback, and so on. But what about your business? Access control can do a better job than any linebacker in keeping unwanted visitors out of your server rooms, offices, or other important rooms.

3. A solid gameplan.

Never rely on a “Hail Mary” pass. This tip goes hand in hand with a solid defense. Like any winning team, you need a strategy and plan of attack. As with a championship football team, you want your security team to have a plan. American Alarm’s experts have decades of combined experience creating security plans for homes and businesses of all kinds.

4. Looking at every scenario and adapting.

What goes hand-in-hand with a solid game plan? The ability to adapt to different scenarios. In football this means anticipating more than just one threat, whether it is the quarterback or running back. Likewise, burglar alarms are important, but it’s just one element of a complete plan. A smart game plan includes monitoring against fire, carbon monoxide and environmental hazards.

5. Having MVPs on your home team.

You want the right people on your local team. In this case, American Alarm has a team full of local experts. In football, we know we have the best home town team, and we expect the best from our security team. That’s where American Alarm comes in. We have a great lineup of professionals that live in the neighborhoods which we service, including an all-star installation team.

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The post Five Things Businesses Can Learn From Championship Football Teams appeared first on American Alarm.

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For small to medium business owners/operators who may think investing in security is unnecessary, the reality is burglars are four times more likely to strike a business than a home, according to Forbes.

All it takes is one burglary, cyber-attack or act of vandalism to seriously disrupt your operations. Worse, such an attack can shutter your business permanently.

The High Costs of Theft

Retailers are particularly vulnerable because their goods can often be quickly taken and moved using basic tools and transportation. For instance, during the past several years, a gang of roving thieves successfully used simple blowtorches to successfully raid Target stores in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, garnering six-figure sums.

The thieves typically focused on stealing expensive Apple and other electronics gear. When they were finally brought to court last November, they had taken $154,000 worth of iPads and iPhones from Target stores in just two Massachusetts towns.

High Cost of Fear

it’s not just the cash or goods at risk, it’s also peace of mind. After two robberies by a gun-wielding duo — in a single week — one Holyoke, Massachusetts, Dairy Mart owner was contemplating selling the business outright.

“Trust me, I don’t care about the money,” the owner told a local reporter, after losing thousands of dollars. “My life or my friend’s life is more important than anything.”

If you’ve decided the risk of inaction is too great, the next step is to create a business security plan and upgrade your protective infrastructure. Not every measure needs to involve super expensive or technologically sophisticated gear and solutions, as Forbes points out. Think about:

  • Door locks: Make sure you have a lock that is sophisticated enough to actually discourage a burglar.
  • Lighting: You can deter crooks by keeping both the interior and exterior of the building constantly illuminated.
  • A bolted-down safe: Do you have client or other documents that are particularly sensitive? Then think of procuring and using a heavy, fireproof safe and placing it in a hidden spot.
  • Cybersecurity: Cloud-based protection for your data and apps is affordable and easily obtained.
  • Installing security cameras and related solutions: Get 24/7 visibility to your office and/or building.

For an extra layer of security, you can hand the task of surveillance to a professional security systems provider, such as American Alarm with its UL-certified security command center, based in Arlington, Massachusetts. Their 24/7 operators average a response time of less than 20 seconds. You’ve worked too hard for this business — it’s time you protect it.

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The post Don’t Take Business Security for Granted appeared first on American Alarm.

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American Alarm by American Alarm Blogging Team - 5M ago

Chimney fires are dangerous and potentially devastating, particularly in the winter season here in New England. Chimney blazes destroyed 100 homes in the U.S. in 2016, according to Channel 22 News in Chicopee. A recent spate of chimney fires in western Massachusetts prompted another warning article.

The latter story notes how one fire broke out after the home’s chimney tiles cracked — and the chimney block cracked with them, which allowed the fire to enter the home. On New Year’s Day, firefighters from Newbury, Massachusetts, successfully responded to a blaze, which they contained in the affected home’s porch.

Chimney Armor Chinks

In this era of internet of things (IoT) sensors and web-enabled home-to-mobile-device communications, it’s crucial not to overlook traditional safety measures. These include annual chimney inspections and regular chimney and flue maintenance and cleaning.

Professional inspectors know what to look for. What ultimately leads to most chimney fires is “literally lack of maintenance,” as one local chimney expert notes in the FOX article.

One of the leading causes of these conflagrations is creosote buildup in the chimney. A byproduct of burned wood, creosote typically takes the form of a black, oily wood-tar residue that can accumulate in every chimney type. It’s also highly combustible.

Chimney Maintenance Tips

There is plenty you can do to maintain your chimney and avoid fires, including annual professional inspections of the chimneys and flues. Additionally, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has issued a safety precaution checklist, which recommends, among other measures:

  •        Stick to burning dry, well-seasoned hardwood (reduces creosote buildup)
  •        Clean chimney flue before each heating season
  •        Don’t ignite your fire with flammable liquids
  •        Check the damper to ensure it’s open before lighting the fire
  •        Don’t close the damper before fire is extinguished and embers are cool
  •        Install/maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms

This final tip ties into an overall home environment protection plan. It’s a sobering fact, but according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, most chimney fires go undetected.

Installing smoke/carbon monoxide alarms gives you an extra security layer that can protect your home and warn you immediately if anything goes wrong.

Turn to a trusted and proven local security system vendor and environmental monitoring services provider, such as American Alarm. Our solutions can detect and alert first responders to the presence of fire (as we did in Malden, Massachusetts just last November) and carbon monoxide (as we did last year in Harvard and Hopedale, Massachusetts). 

Next Steps

The post Chimney Fires: Preventable Danger in New England appeared first on American Alarm.

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Given recent trends in information technology and crime, we have two major predictions about security in 2019:

  1. The biggest single threat to your business will come via cybersecurity vulnerability.
  2. The Internet of Things (IoT) will come to dominate your house and small business systems (assuming IoT hasn’t already taken over).

These two predictions are closely bound together. The IoT is opening up all sorts of new threats to your home/office/shop security, and hackers and other cyber crooks dominated the headlines in New England over the past year. Last April, the Leominster, Massachusetts, school district fell victim to a ransomware assault — it paid $10,000 to have its system unlocked. Then in August, a jury convicted a local hacker who shut down a Boston hospital network with a “denial of service” attack.

“Internet of Things” Security Key

Factor in the explosive growth of IoT systems, which handle everything from sensing environmental conditions (such as temperatures in warehouses) to managing complex supply chains. Adoption of IoT-enabled solutions in both the office and home is only growing. The overall spend on IoT will hit $520 billion by 2021 — double what was expended in 2017, says a recent Forbes article. The costs and consequences of failing to prepare a broad-based cybersecurity strategy can be disastrous in the near term from outright theft. Legal and industry compliance issues add to the complexity. As an example, Massachusetts companies must report data breaches if they hold certain types of third-party personal information in their networks.

Facing the Cybersecurity Menace

Ready to do something about cybersecurity/IoT-related chinks in your security armor? Fortunately, it’s becoming easier to integrate security features and services into your smart house/smart business. Below are some tips on what to address as part of a holistic security program:

  • Make sure you have a physically secure location to defend against onsite security breaches.
  • Install access control systems wherever needed: in server rooms, money storage areas, administrative offices, etc. Modern cloud-based systems are more secure and advanced than ever at defending against both physical and digital intruders.
  • Secure the Wi-Fi network and all internal user accounts with strong passwords and current software patches.
  • Train your users in anti-phishing techniques.
  • Hard-wired security cameras are harder to hack than wireless surveillance systems that require DIY installation.
  • A professional security company will deploy your tools, such as cameras and readers, where they will do the most good. This buys you peace of mind. Many things can go wrong with a do-it-yourself installation, and your expenditure will be wasted.
  • Have backup communications ready in the case of an emergency, such as an assault on the electric grid (something that has recently been targeted by foreign hackers).

As criminals get smarter, and the world turns more and more to IoT systems, you should turn to a sophisticated and proven local security provider such as American Alarm. We have technology that can leverage the IoT to do more than just monitor the house for intruders. The American Alarm App enables remote monitoring and management of access controls and geo-fence perimeters, as well as lighting and temperature systems, and more.

Next Steps

The post Predictions for 2019: Why Cybersecurity Protects Physical Security appeared first on American Alarm.

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American Alarm by American Alarm Blogging Team - 5M ago

“Home Alone” is an all-time classic holiday movie. Young Kevin McCallister cleverly outsmarts two house burglars in a hilarious Christmas comedy. In addition to the slapstick laughs, Kevin employs non-traditional security measures to protect his house against the would-be burglars. While we don’t recommend icing your doorsteps and swinging paint cans from the top of your stairs, there are some lessons to be learned about proper home security.

Here is a list of the 10 security lessons you CAN learn from “Home Alone”:

1.  Don’t tell strangers when you’re going away — or how long you’ll be gone

That includes protecting yourselves on social media, too. Thieves can quickly harvest data about who is absent in any given neighborhood and try to exploit this knowledge (just as Joe Pesci’s character does).

2.  If you have any doubts about someone’s credentials, ask for ID and don’t let that person in your house until it’s provided

Avoid sharing your travel plans and home security secrets with that unverified person. That’s something the McCallisters failed to do right at the movie’s start.

3.  Put indoor lights on timers to give the appearance someone is home

Putting lights to certain rooms in your house on timers will give the appearance that somebody is home. This is a little more realistic than the party Kevin McCallister pretends to throw to make it seem like people are home, complete with dancing mannequins and loud music.

4.  Outdoor lighting will make it hard for burglars to sneak around your premises

Christmas lights are just one way to illuminate the yard, as the McCallisters have done. However, for security purposes you’ll want to strategically place lights in the front and back of the property. Insure there are no blind spots thieves can exploit.

5.  Burglars are less likely to attempt to break-in if they see you have a security system

Mr. McCallister not only doesn’t install an alarm in his fine house, he tells Joe Pesci he doesn’t have one. Quite an invitation.

6.  Watch out for your neighbors’ houses as well

One way to protect yourself is to report strange activity at your neighbors’ houses, just as young Kevin McCallister does. In the process, you might be thwarting thieves who plan to rob you, as well.

7.  Internal video surveillance would have shown Kevin was safe while Home Alone

Besides boosting internal security with locks and alarms, and well placed internal surveillance cameras, the McCallister parents could have safely monitored their son the entire time he was home alone.

8.  Install window sensors so you don’t need to put ornaments on the floor

A set of window sensors connected to a security solution that can trigger an alarm is, shall we say, a bit more reliable. The thief (unlike the bumbling Daniel Stern in the movie) will probably be wearing boots as he enters the window.

9.  The security alarm will scare people away better than the scene from “Angels with Dirty Faces”

While the famous line “Merry Christmas ya filthy animal” is enough to scare away burglars and even the pizza man in the movie, a security alarm is a better bet to scare away criminals.

10.  Hot door knobs usually indicate it’s a good idea to go away

Although this wasn’t enough to keep the thieves out in Home Alone, a hot door knob could mean a fire is on the other side and it’s time to get out. A fire alarm would let you know even better.

Next Steps

The post 10 Security Lessons from “Home Alone” appeared first on American Alarm.

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American Alarm by American Alarm Blogging Team - 5M ago

This time of year in New England, small businesses are at special risk from thieves looking to cash in on the busy Christmas season. To be as safe as possible owners of these businesses can take special safety precautions, including the addition of alarms, and video surveillance and monitoring solutions.

Sadly, not everyone has peace on earth and goodwill to all in mind during the holiday season. A variety of crimes increase in frequency this time of year, especially shoplifting. This is a particular threat to small business owners of all sorts — particularly seasonal businesses who have extra merchandise, personnel and cash on hand.

Small Businesses Victimized in New England

Local businesses are already feeling the pinch of holiday shoplifting. Two people allegedly looted the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets in early November. The suspects operated by entering a store or two, lifting items inside, and then depositing them in a car before returning. By the time the police intervened, the duo had accumulated an estimated thousands of dollars’ worth of booty.

Business owners in Melrose, Massachusetts, suffered a recent string of smash and grabs. One boutique and consignment store lost some 15 designer handbags (including some from Gucci and Louis Vuitton) and at least $15,000 to thieves. “It was just a nightmare,” said one Melrose shop owner. “Right before Christmas.”

Small Businesses Require Protection

To discourage or thwart thieves, small businesses worried about seasonal theft, we’ve offered some tips below (some of which we’ve borrowed from a Travelers Insurance blog):

  • Think very hard about your cybersecurity, especially point-of-sale systems
  • Create an inventory/facility protection plan for the season
  • Evaluate all transactions daily, including voided/deleted sales to detect theft
  • Install cameras in strategic places of your shop/store
  • If you have cameras in place, review the footage regularly
  • Take steps make sure your cameras are prominent, to deter thieves
Taking Crucial Steps for Small Business Protection

If you don’t already rely on camera surveillance, this is a great time to think about it. You can also consider implementing a commercial burglar alarm system from a proven vendor, such as American Alarm, located here in New England. You can also arrange for IP video surveillance to identify/deter thieves.

Sadly, not everyone has peace on earth and goodwill to men on mind on the holiday season. In fact, historically, a variety of crimes increase in frequency, particularly shoplifting. This is a particular threat to small business owners of all sorts — particularly seasonal businesses, such as retailers, who typically have extra merchandise, personnel, and cash on hand.

Small Businesses Victimized in New England

Already, weeks before December 24, there have been multiple detected thefts in region. Let’s start at Wrentham Village Premium Outlets in Wrentham, Massachusetts, where two people were arrested in early November. The suspects operated by entering a store or two, lifting items inside, and then depositing them in a car before returning. By the time the police intervened, the duo had accumulated an estimated thousands of dollars’ worth of booty.
In Melrose, Massachusetts, there was a recent string of retail smash and grabs. One boutique and consignment store was down some 15 designer handbags (including some from Gucci and Louis Vuitton) and at least $15,000. “It was just a nightmare,” said one Melrose shop owner. “Right before Christmas.”

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The post Holiday Season Thieves Threaten Small Businesses appeared first on American Alarm.

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American Alarm by American Alarm Blogging Team - 5M ago

Christmas time is not only the season for giving — for package thieves, it’s the time for taking. That risk increases each day leading up to Christmas.  

Roughly 30 percent of Americans are victims of package theft according to ABC. With Cyber Monday sales estimated to have hit a whopping $8 billion, the opportunities for grab-and-go package thefts are just going to get worse. Ultimately, the threat of such thieves could put a dent into e-commerce itself, says an Inc. article.

These aren’t always just one-offs by random crooks. There are criminals who focus on package thefts, says a blog from Shorr Packaging Corp. Thieves can even form a coordinated gang. Just this month, police in Quincy, Massachusetts, caught a quartet of accused package thieves in a rented car that had stolen multiple packages from a city neighborhood.

Protecting Your Packages

The local threat is so serious this season, New England authorities have issued warnings to the public. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, police department will even increase patrols in high risk areas. The department also offers the following advice to frustrate holiday porch bandits:

  • Buyers should require all deliveries include a signature (preventing any unattended parcels)
  • Track packages online so you can plan to be home when they arrive
  • Ask for delivery on weekends to increase the chance someone will be there to receive it
  • Request delivery notifications
  • If need be, have packages delivered to your work address or to a neighbor/friend
  • Install a lockbox that can only be opened by a delivery company
Eyes on Your Prizes 24/7

You can also take the protection up a notch by installing video surveillance cameras at your doorstep and other relevant areas of your home. This type of footage often goes viral online and can also be shared with police to identify and possibly capture thieves.

To make your camera system more effective, place a sign announcing that the house is under video surveillance. This should deter most would-be package thieves. You can also subscribe to a monitoring service to watch your property when you are absent.

Locally, American Alarm is a proven vendor with robust solutions and reliable surveillance services available. We can provide viewing services from our 24-hour Security Command Center. We can watch your property at specific times each day, or in response to warning signs, 24/7/365.

Talk to us today and ensure you have the happiest holiday season

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The post Don’t Let Package Thieves Steal Your Holiday Cheer appeared first on American Alarm.

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American Alarm by American Alarm Blogging Team - 5M ago

This colorless and odorless gas escapes from faulty furnaces, as well as portable generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges and other sources. When the fumes enter an area lacking adequate ventilation, they become lethally dangerous. In fact, it’s the biggest cause of poisoning in the U.S. according to Mass.gov .

50,000 victims of carbon monoxide poisoning head to the emergency room annually, and out of those 430 never make it home. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that carbon monoxide poisonings spike in December and January — due in part to power outages caused by winter weather, which lead homeowners to use alternative power sources.

Cautionary Example In Lawrence

In November, NECN reported that a Lawrence, Massachusetts, family of seven had to be hospitalized after becoming poisoned with carbon monoxide. The problem began when the furnace in their home malfunctioned and the oxygen levels inside dropped.

The results weren’t immediate. Over two days, the family suffered from the common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: disorientation, headaches and more. After summoning help, the family was taken to an emergency room where the staff was surprised there had been no deaths.

“All seven of us could have been fatal,” said one family member.

Steps You Can Take

Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to protect yourself this season. Here are some tips from the above sources, as well as a flyer from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

  • Install CO detectors and replace them every five years
  • If using a generator, you must also have a battery-powered/battery backup CO detector in the house
  • Don’t run generators, press washers or gas engines in basements or other enclosed areas — even with open doors/windows
  • If you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 immediately

You can also hire a vendor to install an environmental detection system, with monitoring services. Right here in New England, American Alarm installs detectors and provides 24/7 carbon monoxide monitoring. Time and again it has warned its customers about CO outbreaks, as the following examples illustrate:

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  • Subscribe to our blog to stay informed about the latest security news and insight.
  • Stay up to date on security topics such as home alarm systems, business security systems, video surveillance systems, IP video networks, remote video monitoring, fire alarm systems, and fire alarm inspection.

The post Carbon Monoxide: Winter’s Silent Killer appeared first on American Alarm.

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The only thing worse than a burnt turkey on Thanksgiving is being forced to evacuate your home because of a fire. Thanksgiving Day is the most common day for kitchen fires in New England and across the nation, as pointed out by NECN, and cooking accidents are the leading cause (77 percent) of Thanksgiving house fires nationally, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Rising Thanksgiving Fire Risks

Unattended cooking is a particularly dangerous practice, notes the National Fire Protection Association, and in terms of equipment, turkey fryers pose a special hazard — as graphically demonstrated by a Boston magazine video.

With children running around the house, the chances of bumping into a pot on the stove or knocking over a dinner candle only increases the risk of a fire ruining your holiday get together.

Fighting Thanksgiving Fire with Caution

Besides dining out with your family, there are practical things you can do to make the holiday as safe as possible. The NFPA offers some practical tips:

  • When cooking on the stove top, remain in the kitchen so you keep your food in line of sight
  • While cooking a turkey, check on it frequently and remain in the house
  • Make sure starter lighters are well away from children
  • Test your smoke alarms to ensure they are functioning properly

To give yourself an extra boost of safety, however, you may want to monitor your house’s overall environmental conditions during the holiday and beyond. Consider installing a complete fire detection and alerting system using the latest and most reliable components.

American Alarm is a New England vendor and services provider that can deploy a residential fire detection system optimized for your house and its layout. Seconds can make a huge difference

between a minor incident and a major disaster on Thanksgiving. With a 24/7 fire monitoring system in place, you can feel secure whether awake or asleep. Talk to us today.

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The post Stay Merry this Thanksgiving by Taking Fire Precautions appeared first on American Alarm.

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American Alarm by American Alarm Blogging Team - 5M ago

As the holiday retail season approaches, retailers and supermarket owners of all sizes in New England must defend themselves against theft. As a retailer, there are many steps you can take, including adding electronic surveillance systems throughout your store.

While the holiday season provides 34 percent of annual retail sales, it also accounts for 37 percent of yearly shrinkage, as a Forbes article notes. The biggest contributors to shrinkage are shoplifting and employee theft.

New England Retailers Face Risk, Reward

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts sponsored its 12th annual New England Loss Prevention Expo to highlight the dangers of fraud, skimming, shoplifting and financial crimes.

As the event page notes: “Billions of dollars in revenue, tax dollars and man hours are lost each year while industry professionals and law enforcement tirelessly work to investigate, prosecute and punish crimes against retailers.”

One of the biggest threats comes from organized retail crime, where thieves select particular types of goods (holiday turkeys for instance) and steal them in bulk and sell through organized channels. The use of self-service checkout systems can also increase the risk of shoplifting, as one Wrentham, Massachusetts attorney notes on his blog. The holiday retail season increases those risks.

Taking Steps to Protect Inventory and Profits

Luckily, you as a retailer, can take extra measures to protect your stores, employees and shoppers. As a previous American Alarm blog notes, you can establish the following policies:

  •   Greet customers as they enter a store (thieves avoid attentive sales staff)
  •   Encourage employees to walk the entire store repeatedly
  •   Keep the store neat and well-lit and completely visible
  •   Watch for shoppers that appear nervous or avoid eye contact

For even better security, New England retailers should install (or upgrade existing) electronic anti-theft systems that support cutting edge Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. These solutions use a variety of components, including IoT enabled tags, powerful surveillance cameras and alerting systems.

For extra measure, you can even install a manually operated panic alarm system. This can be triggered to immediately alert a 24/7 third party surveillance center that, in turn, can reach the police. Using such an alarm, an employee at a luxury retail store on Boston’s Newbury Street was able to contact American Alarm’s central station. The operator dispatched the police, who arrested a patron and “restored calm.”

For a reliable retail monitoring and surveillance solution, turn to a regional vendor like American Alarm.

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The post Protecting the New England Holiday Retail Industry appeared first on American Alarm.

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