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Staying Safe This Valentine’s Day

Whether you have a romantic night in or a night out with someone special, Valentine’s Day holds a higher number of safety risks than your average day. Use these tips to ensure you and your home are safe this year.

  • Wait until after you’re home to share your dinner reservation, movie plans, or photos of you out. Sharing this information while you’re out makes you a target for burglars.
  • Before you leave make sure all windows and doors are locked, and you may even want to leave a light on to appear as though you are home.
  • Limit your cash on hand and place valuable items, such as a purse and wallet, in front of you at all times. Placing these items behind you or in your back pocket make you an easy target for a pickpocket.
  • If you plan on going on a getaway for the holiday have someone house-sit or look in on your home for you. This ensures all mail and packages are picked up, maintenance issues are taken care of, and makes for an appearance that someone is consistently home.
  • Having a candle lit dinner or cuddling by the fire is a great way to spend Valentine’s Day, just be careful to keep flammable items such as blankets and napkins away from the flame and never leave a fire unattended.
  • Before going to bed after your romantic night in, ensure all candles/fires have been extinguished and that the oven/stove have been turned off.
  • Don’t forget about your furry friends! If you are a pet owner be sure you aren’t leaving chocolate, alcohol, lilies, or thorny rose stems out for your fur babies to get into!

Have fun and stay safe this Valentine’s Day!

With winter in full effect it is important to take time to ensure you are safely reacting to the cold weather. The sales of electrical products increase during the winter months, this combined with the colder weather increases the likelihood of electrical fires and injuries. The cold weather also brings hundreds of pound of snow which may cause health issues to those responsible for moving the snow.

This article will provide some tips to help keep you and your family are safe through these cold months. These tips will focus on Space Heater Safety, Heating Pads and Electric Blanket Safety, Carbon Monoxide Safety, Smoke Alarm Safety, Fire Escape Strategies, and Snow Shoveling Safety.

Space Heater Safety

In the United States the second leading cause of home fires is heating equipment. There are more than 65,000 home fires caused by heating equipment each year. In 2007 the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimated there were 21,800 home fires directly involving stationary or portable space heaters. These fires caused 490 deaths, 1,180 injuries and $330 million in property damage.

Space heaters are not just a residential concern as they are also common in the work place. Below are some tips to ensure you, your family, and your employees are practicing safe space heater usage.

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels prior to using any space heater, store these instructions in a memorable place for future usage and ensure warning labels are never removed.
  • Prior to usage inspect heaters for broken or cracked plugs and for loose connections. Never use heaters that are frayed, damaged or worn.
  • When leaving a room or going to sleep always turn off and unplug your space heater. Space heaters should never be left unattended.
  • Don’t let children or pets play too close to a space heater.
  • Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip as these can overheat and cause a fire. Do not plug anything into the same outlet the heater is occupying.

Heating Pads and Electric Blanket Safety

Each year almost 500 fires are caused by heating pads and electric blankets. These appliances should never be used interchangeably or at the same time. Below are some safety tips to ensure proper usage.

  • Before usage, check for frayed, charred, or dark spots and check for cracks in the electric cord. Replace any old or warn items.
  • When using a heating pad or electric blanket ensure nothing is placed on top of it. When covered by other blankets or pets, the electric blanket may overheat.
  • Ensure electric blankets are never folded or tucked in while in use, this can cause it to overheat.
  • Never leaving heating pads or electric blankets unattended or used while asleep.

Carbon Monoxide Safety

Over 200 people in the United States die each year from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning as well as several thousand who are treated for CO poisoning. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless poisonous gas. Carbon Monoxide is often called the “Silent Killer” because without detection technology, it is virtually undetectable. Below are some Carbon Monoxide Alarm tips.

  • Install CO alarms outside every sleeping area and on each level of your home.
  • Do not substitute CO alarms for smoke alarms, both should be installed in your home.
  • Purchase interconnected CO alarms to ensure when one sounds, they all do.
  • Test CO alarms at least once a month by pressing the TEST button.
  • Know the lifespan of your CO alarm, these vary and should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Ensure everyone in the family knows the difference between the CO alarm sound and the smoke alarm sound.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, ensure all persons in the building are moved to fresh air and out of danger.
  • Never ignore a sounding CO alarm.

Smoke Alarm Safety

Each day in the U.S. eight people on average die in a home fire- totaling almost 3,000 people each year. Around two thirds of all home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms even though the chance of dying in a fire is cut nearly in half simply by having a working smoke alarm. Many people are unaware of advances of newer smoke alarm recommendations and technologies, and lack the recommended level of residential smoke alarm protection. To ensure you are properly protected see the below tips.

  • Install smoke alarms in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on each level of your home.
  • Purchase interconnected smoke alarms: when one sounds, they all do.
  • Purchase combination smoke alarms that include ionization and photoelectric alarms. Ionization alarm is responsive to flames, while photoelectric alarm is responsive to a smoldering fire.
  • Install smoke alarms at least 10 feet from cooking appliances to reduce false and nuisance alarms.
  • Avoid locating alarms near bathrooms, heating appliances, ceiling fans and windows.
  • Alarms should be mounted in the center of a ceiling, if they must be mounted on the wall ensure they are placed at 6 to 12 inches from the ceiling.

Fire Escape Strategies

Though smoke alarms can be the difference between life and death, every home, family and workplace should be equipped with a fire escape plan. Preparation and practice is essential to ensure the most is made of the few minutes you may have to get out once the smoke alarm sound. Below are tips to help you plan and execute.

  • Ensure everyone in your family, including children, are involved in creating your fire escape plan.
  • Ensure everyone in your family can recognize the sound of the smoke alarm and know what to do when it sounds.
  • Establish a meeting place a safe distance outside your home/business where your family will gather after escaping. This place should be somewhere permanent such as a tree, mailbox, or light pole. This place should be somewhere firefighters can locate you easily.
  • Ensure each member of your family, including children, are able to call 911 and report your home address.
  • At least twice a year practice your fire escape plan. One of these drills should occur at night while your family is sleeping.

Snow Shoveling Safety

Each year thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths occur from shoveling snow. This may sound absurd, shoveling snow is your run of the mill winter chore. However, Harvard Health Executive Editor Patrick J. Skerrett says, “Picking up a shovel and moving hundreds of pounds of snow, particularly after doing nothing physical for several months, can put a big strain on the heart.” On top of this, cold weather can increase blood pressure and heart rate. This makes blood clots more easily and can cause arteries to constrict, this can be the case even with healthy people. If you are a person with a history of heart disease, ask your doctor prior to shoveling snow. The National Safety Council recommends these tips:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking
  • Take it slow and stretch out before you begin
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; its lighter
  • Push the snow rather than lift it
  • If you do lift the snow, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel
  • Lift with your legs, not your back
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion
  • If at any point you feel tightness in your chest or dizziness, stop immediately

Snow Blower Safety Tips

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends these tips while using a snow blower:

  • If the blower jams, turn it off
  • Keep your hands away from the moving parts
  • Do not drink alcohol and use the snow blower
  • Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk or running a snow blower in an enclosed space
  • Never refuel the snow blower while it is running

The ESI family hopes these tips can help you and yours stay safe this winter season.

School is back in session January 14, 2019 for many schools in Washoe County. The second half of the school year commences after the three week holiday break and both adult and child both dread and welcome the return to class. However, it is always important to remember that the hustle and bustle of drop off and pick up time plus winter weather this time of year can equal a deadly situation for those both in vehicle and on foot.

Each year in the United States at least 100 children are killed and 25,000 children are injured in school zone accidents. These statistics alone are alarming, yet children only account for about one fifth of school zone accident victims, the majority are adults.

Though school zone accidents have decreased in recent years, in thanks to rigorous enforcement of traffic laws in school zones, the death rate has increased in children over the age of 12. This increase is thought to be attributed to the increase in number of kids using electronic devices while crossing the street.

While both pedestrians and drivers hold responsibility over school zone accidents, it is the driver’s ultimate responsibility to exercise extra caution while driving in a school zone. Below are some tips to help drivers ensure they never find themselves responsible for a school zone accident.

  • Always obey school zone speed limits, ensure you are entering the school zone at the limit and not still slowing down as you enter.
  • Never use your cellphone while driving near a school.
  • If you drop children off at school, attempt to drop them off in an area where they will not be required to cross a street.
  • Never pass a school bus if the bus has extended its stop sign.
  • Never double park while dropping children off; this blocks visibility for other vehicles and for children.
  • If possible, carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.
  • Never block the crosswalk while stopped at a red light or waiting to turn.
  • Always stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection.
  • Stop at least 10 feet from the back of a school bus to allow children enough space to safely enter and exit the bus.

It is our responsibility to ensure pedestrians make it home to their families each night. Practice safe driving skills and patience at all times.

Cybersecurity in the workplace may be one of the most important systems you put in place. Though it is not possible to be 100% protected, educating your employees can bring you as close to that number as possible. By involving your employees in the cybersecurity protocol you convert them from potentially being the problem, to being a part of the solution.

Password Protection

More important than knowing how to make a strong password, is knowing to never share that password with another person or between log ins. What strength a password has, is automatically cancelled out once everyone knows it and can use it to access all your accounts.

Employees should know that complexity is more important than length when choosing a new password. A complex password includes uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols (as allowed by the account terms).

When creating complex passwords for each account you access you must have a secure place to store this information, the human brain can only do so much. Using a password manager allows your employees to securely store their passwords and have them instantly available when they are needed.

Sensitive Data Privacy

Ensure your employees are taught the value of keeping private information private, as this is an easy way for criminals to target your employees. Private information can be used to launch spam or phishing emails, blackmail, or extortion.

Data privacy should be strictly followed by all employees but more importantly by all employees in managerial or confidential positions.

Network Safety Awareness

Productivity has increased as a result of the growing trend of employees working remotely. However, these employees are frequently connecting to Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops, airports, hotels, and their own homes. This raises issues regarding the security of the networks being accessed and who may be accessing the same network and intercepting your employees work. This is called a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack.

On top of these attacks your employees need to be aware of rogue networks. Meaning the network your employees are connecting to may actually be a similarly-named fake network set up by a person attempting to log information and data from the network users.

Educating employees to be aware of what networks they are using is crucial in keeping private information secure and your company protected.

Identifying Possible Threats

Educating employees on how to identify a cybersecurity threat can save you and your company both money and peace of mind. Employees should be taught to at least practice caution when they observe suspicious activity. This can include:

  • A random email asking for a donation from an unsolicited source
  • A call from someone claiming to be an employee asking for information from an associate branch
  • An innocent looking USB thumb drive found on company property

Threat Report Procedure

Training employees on what to do in response to a threat or breach allows them to be a part of the solution. Employees should know how to contact IT and create a report as well as to never attempt to deal with a threat or breach themselves.

Each year as technology progresses, so do the threats presented to companies. Follow these tips to help your company make it through another year safe.