The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 95 years, has announced “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” as the theme for Fire Prevention Week, October 4-10, 2020. NFPA’s focus on cooking fire safety comes in response to home cooking fires representing the leading cause of U.S. home fires, with nearly half (49 percent) of all home fires involving cooking equipment; unattended cooking is the leading cause of these fires.
“Cooking continues to be a major contributor to the home fire problem,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “The good news is that the vast majority of these fires are highly preventable. This year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign works to better educate the public about where potential cooking hazards exist and basic but critical ways to prevent them.”
Carli notes that this year’s focus on cooking safety is particularly timely. “As the public may continue to avoid restaurants for some time and opt instead to do more cooking and entertaining at home, the potential for home cooking fires will likely increase as well.”
Key messages around this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” will include the following:
Keep a close eye on what you’re cooking; never leave cooking unattended
Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — at least three feet away from your stovetop.
Be on alert. If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol, don’t use the stove or stovetop.
For more information about Fire Prevention Week and this year’s theme, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen,”along with a wealth of resources to help promote the campaign locally, visit fpw.org.
About Fire Prevention Week
NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation declaring a national observance during that week every year since 1925. Visit www.firepreventionweek.org for more safety information.
Burning high moisture-content wood in your fireplace produces more smoke than seasoned wood. This, in turn, can cause dangerous creosote to build up on the walls of your chimney. Burn only dry wood. Be sure you always check your chimney before using your fireplace.
It may be tempting to throw dried up plants in the fireplace—they’re kind of like firewood, right? Well, the smoke from some plants, such as poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak can cause an allergic reaction when burned and inhaled. Leave all plant matter outside.
Painted or treated wood
Because burning painted and treated wood can release dangerous, toxic chemicals into your home, keep them out of your fireplace. Not only can these chemicals irritate lungs, eyes, and skin, but they can damage the inside of your fireplace. FYI: Never mount your TV above your fireplace.
It seems logical that you could get rid of your old Christmas tree in the fireplace, but it’s best to dispose of it by other means. Not only is the wood not properly seasoned, evergreen trees often contain high levels of quick-burning resin which can reach high temperatures and result in a chimney fire or even crack your chimney.
It doesn’t matter what type of plastic you have—plastic bags, bubble wrap, plastic bottles, or cartons—never throw it in the fireplace. When burned, plastic releases harmful chemicals that can be dangerous for your health. Or, try to reduce your plastic consumption entirely.
Some papers and cardboard
It may be tempting to toss old papers, wrapping paper, or that cardboard pizza box in the fireplace, but you should dispose of paper and cardboard with colored print another way (though, make sure you check if you can recycle these things—because many times, you can’t). The brightly colored inks may release toxic gasses when burned.
While you may use charcoal products in your barbecue grill, keep them outdoors. When you burn charcoal, it releases carbon monoxide into the air, and that’s the last thing you want inside your home.
While dryer lint may work as a great fire starter when you’re on a camping trip, keep it out of your fireplace. The synthetic fibers in dryer lint can release dangerous chemical fumes into your home and chimney. Choose a healthier way to ignite your fire.
That large piece of driftwood you found on the coast may seem like a good choice for firewood, but it can potentially release salt and thus corrode your fireplace and chimney. Leave driftwood to its best use: a decoration.
Never use fire accelerants such as gasoline, grill starter fluid, or kerosene to start a fire. These highly flammable liquids can cause a fire that quickly becomes too hot for your fireplace and chimney, putting the integrity of your chimney and your home at risk. It’s best to keep these accelerants out of your home.
“Finally going to Italy May 10-29!” you might caption an Instagram or Facebook photo months in advance. If your social media platforms are public, you’re giving plenty of strangers the opportunity to plan for a break-in. And even if they’re not, an acquaintance might mention it, with the information getting in the wrong hands.
While you’re on vacation, occasionally post ambiguous images of you or your family and friends at your home to throw off any potential burglars following you on social media.
Solution 2: Post photos of your house sitter
If you absolutely must post photos of your trip, or are required to do it for work (such as lifestyle blogging), then a good way to keep the burglars away is to post sporadic photos of your home, pets, and even house sitter. You can post captions like, “So grateful we have a wonderful house sitter watching over our home for the next week!”
Solution 3: Get on a neighborhood app
Finally, there’s a perk to all your nosy neighbors! If you have an app like Nextdoor, the free private social media network for your neighborhood community, you can keep a lookout for any lurkers in your area, since people post suspicious activity all the time. If anything comes up, you should have a select few trusted sources to keep an eye out for your vacant home.
Log out of your accounts
Log out of your personal accounts on your computers at home, ensuring you have a protective password. Personal information on there could relay your travel plans, or give people passwords to safes and more in the home. You should also log out of your personal social media accounts on any public computers you use while traveling.
Disable location settings
Have you ever noticed that, when on Facebook, a little bar pops up on your Newsfeed that shows you where people are traveling? It can show people traveling simply an hour away for the day, or off to another country. Do you really want people to know this information about you … ever? Especially while on vacation, it’s best to disable your location settings on all your social media channels.
Only accept friend requests from friends
Your social life might have your friend requests on social media skyrocketing, but be careful not to accept people who you don’t genuinely know. Not everyone has the best of intentions, and someone who you met through a friend of a friend very briefly could come across your personal life and track down your home.
Enable two-factor authentication
If you are posting your travels merely with trusted friends in private messages on your social media platforms, you should be sure no one else can access your account. That means enabling two-factor authentication on your social media platforms. With this, no one on another computer, phone, etc., can access your account just because they know your password, as the platform will recognize it’s a new device and send your phone a notification.
Get your kids on board
You may put in all the work to ensure your social media doesn’t relay your vacation information but are your kids playing along? You’ll want to make sure you go through all of these steps with them to be safe.
Great article by Alexa Erickson for the Reader’s Digest
Facebook can be a wonderful place full of opportunities to learn new things, share the special moments in your life, and reconnect with old friends. While Facebook is a lighthearted site for sharing, liking, and commenting, it is also one of the most common places for scams and fraud on the Internet. Unfortunately, while you’re sharing your life with friends and family, you might be unintentionally sharing private information with those who wish to do you harm.
On the bright side, there are ways to protect yourself against the nefarious and sometimes quite believable scams. More and more scams are being exposed every day and each new scam is more clever and less detectable than the last. As a rule of thumb, remember to do your own research, never click on suspicious links, and distrust sites asking you to enter personal information.
Your friend just found out what ‘80s pop star is their spirit animal and now you can’t wait to find out either. Don’t let your curiosity get the better of you, though. Some Facebook quizzes will ask for access to your profile, and others will even go a step further by throwing certain questions into the quiz itself, says Adam Levin, founder of global identity protection and data risk services firm CyberScout and author of Swiped. “They’re purely to gather information because … they could be the answers to security questions,” he says. Only take quizzes on sites you know and trust, and create fake answers for password recovery questions so they’re hard to crack, says Levin. It might be easy enough for Facebook scams to figure out your mother’s maiden name, so leave an easy-to-remember lie instead.
Free iPad giveaway? Sign me up! But wait—before you click that sweepstakes link, ask yourself whether it seems real, says Eva Velasquez, CEO and president of Identity Theft Resource Center. “Yes, there are legitimate sweepstakes and raffles and giveaways, but there’s usually an end goal there,” she says. Most companies are hoping the promise of a free iPad (or flight or jewelry) will entice you enough to, say, sign up for a newsletter or buy a product. Before you give any personal information to a company, weigh the chances of winning with what you’ll lose giving up personal information.
The “new” old friend
Be skeptical if you receive a friend request from someone you could have sworn already had a Facebook page. Sure, some people like to clean house by ditching their old profiles, but other friend requests aren’t so innocent. Scammers will clone a person’s entire Facebook profile, creating a fake profile of a real person. From your “friend’s” page, the hacker could send a link for a get-rich-quick scheme or a cute quote. It’s the kind of thing you’d ignore from an anonymous email message, but not from a loyal friend. “They’re banking on the fact that you will trust the message,” says Levin. The problem is, clicking that link could add malware to your computer. Before you accept a weird friend request, shoot over a text or call the person to confirm it’s not a fake account.
A friend’s strange request
Even if you haven’t received a new request, don’t immediately trust a message from a friend you can’t see face-to-face. Hackers can find a person’s password and break into their account, then message their friends. The person might claim to have lost their wallet in Europe and ask you to send money. It might sound obvious enough now that it’s a scam, but those messages could tap into your fear so you don’t think straight. If you’re wondering if your “friend” is who you think it is, get in touch on a platform other than Facebook. Ringtones sound different in America than in other countries, so you’ll be able to figure out if you’re friend is traveling, even if they don’t pick up the phone, says Levin. Still not sure? Again, get in touch off of Facebook to find out what’s going on.
Whether you know the person who posted it or not, you might go into panic mode when someone leaves you a message warning, “OMG look what they’re saying about you” and click the link to find out what’s going on. “It’s really about engaging your curiosity and getting your curious nature to say, ‘I want to know,’” says Velasquez. But don’t click! A vague message (“Did you see this picture of you?” vs “LOL at your face eating cake at Sam’s party last weekend”) is suspect, and clicking it could load malware onto your computer, says Velasquez. Text your friend to confirm the link is real.
Bee stings are one of the most annoying parts of summer. But in most cases, they’re easy to treat at home.
If you get stung by a bee, a normal reaction can include redness, swelling, and pain near the wound. These symptoms should subside within a few hours, and you can use ice, anti-itch cream, and Advil or Tylenol to help relieve them sooner.
But if you have an allergic reaction to a bee sting, you may want to seek medical attention. Here’s what you should know to treat your bee sting.
How to treat a bee sting
Bee stings are typically more of a nuisance than they are dangerous. Most people have a mild reaction that doesn’t last longer than a few hours.
If you experience a normal, localized reaction, you should be able to effectively treat your bee sting at home, says David Cutler, MD, family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.
First, it’s important to immediately remove the stinger from your skin, if it’s still there. You’ll see a small black dot at the sting site, if so.
Some types of bees — like honey bees — have barbed stingers that remain in your skin. Other types — like carpenter bees, or venomous insects like wasps — have smooth stingers that stay attached to the insect, and they can sting you multiple times before flying away.
1. Use a scraping motion with a flat, blunt object like a credit card across the affected area to remove the stinger.
2. Don’t try to pull the stinger out with tweezers or your fingers — this could result in even more venom squeezing into the skin.
3. Once the stinger is removed, wash the site with soap and water.
After you remove the stinger, you can use a few remedies to treat the pain, itchiness, and swelling that can accompany a bee sting:
Apply ice or a cold compress at the sting site for about 20 minutes every hour to ease pain and reduce swelling. You should wrap the ice in a cloth or towel to protect your skin.
Use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to help reduce itchiness at the site.
An over-the-counter antihistamine like Zyrtec or Claritin can also reduce itchiness.
Pain relievers like Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) can help reduce pain, swelling, and general discomfort.
Spray or creams that contain an anesthetic, like Solarcaine, can also help ease pain or itchiness. These are widely available over-the-counter.
Other natural remedies like applying honey, baking soda, or apple cider vinegar to the sting site might help some people, Cutler says, but there’s not much scientific evidence that these treatment methods are effective.
What to do if you have an allergic reaction
About 5% to 7.5% of Americans will experience an allergic reaction to an insect sting at some points in their lives, according to the Journal of Asthma and Allergy.
Signs of an allergic reaction from a bee sting include:
Excessive itchiness that persists past a few hours
Swelling in other areas of your body, in addition to the sting site
According to Cutler, most allergic reactions are mild or moderate, and can still be treated at home with antihistamines and ice. But some allergic reactions are more severe.
In fact, about 3% of adults who experience insect stings develop a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which does require immediate medical attention. It’s estimated that 90 to 100 Americans die every year due to anaphylaxis from an insect sting.
Signs of anaphylaxis can occur within minutes of a sting and include:
Swelling of tongue or throat
In the case of anaphylaxis, you must be treated with an adrenaline injection, known as epinephrine. This counteracts the hormones your body releases in response to the sting and prevents your body from going into shock, Cutler says.
If you’ve had a mild or moderate allergic reaction to an insect sting before, you should discuss this with your doctor, as this may increase your risk for anaphylaxis in the future. Those at risk can get a prescription for an epi-pen, which allows you to administer epinephrine yourself if you have a severe reaction.
When to see a doctor
Most of the time, you should be able to treat your bee sting at home. However, it is still important to monitor symptoms and seek medical attention immediately if you experience any signs of anaphylaxis, like difficulty breathing or lightheadedness.
And if you do experience a moderate allergic reaction to a bee sting, you should discuss it with your doctor afterwards, because you could be at a higher risk of having a more severe reaction if stung again.
Gone are the days of burglars randomly bursting in with ski masks. Today’s criminals will watch and wait until just the right moment before attempting a break-in.
A broken window
Some criminals will throw a rock through a house or car window before even trying to break in, just to see what happens, says Joel Logan, COO of Las Vegas-based Reliance Security. If an alarm goes off and neighbors peer outside to see what’s happening, they might be scared off. But if the homeowners are clearly out of the house or the police never arrive, they might break in that night or soon after. Call the police right away if you’re home, and install motion-sensor floodlights for when you aren’t there, Logan recommends. Learn these 20 secrets a home security installer won’t tell you to keep your home even safer.
A strolling stranger
You probably don’t know everyone in your neighborhood, but a criminal scoping out the area likely won’t just look like an innocent walker. If someone is walking by repeatedly, check their body language, says Logan. “If you take your dog for a walk, you just walk around the neighborhood. You’re not always checking behind you or looking over your shoulder,” he says. Pay attention to clothing, too. Most people taking a walk for the sake of fitness will be wearing workout gear, so someone in plainclothes who’s out for long periods of time might be up to no good, adds Everett Stern, intelligence director of private intelligence company Tactical Rabbit. Any time you’re feeling uneasy, call the police, he suggests. It’s better to bring them out of their way for a bit than to regret ignoring the warning signs.
An eager photographer
Beyond just looking jumpy, someone watching your home might be taking pictures. They’ll be documenting hiding spots and how close the houses are together—less space between houses means more chance a neighbor will spot them, says Stern. If you notice strangers acting fishy with their cameras, defend yourself by taking your own picture of them, Logan recommends. “You might get into an argument, but if there’s a person with bad intentions, taking a picture of him is a good chance of scaring them off,” he says. Memorize these hiding spots burglars check first for valuables.
Light bulb problems
“Lights are burglars’ enemy,” says Logan. “In lights, they can be seen.” A thief who’s planning to break in might unscrew the bulbs around your house so they don’t turn on and reveal the burglar. Check the bulbs if your lights stop working suddenly. If they’re unscrewed but aren’t burnt out, a crook might be scoping your home, says Logan.
A vehicle that keeps driving by
You don’t need to question every unfamiliar car that drives by, but take note if one passes your house over and over. One with an out-of-state license plate or no plate at all could signal someone is there to watch your neighborhood, especially if the passengers park the car and don’t get out. Write down the license plate number (if there is one), get a description of the driver or the number of people in the car, and call the police if you’re suspicious, says Logan. Make sure you know these other tricks for outsmarting criminals.
My 2 Yen/Shutterstock
A stolen identity can be more valuable than some jewelry and cash. “A lot of burglars won’t enter a home,” says Stern. “They’ll start stealing your trash.” From there, they’ll rummage around for documents containing your Social Security number, birthday, and other clues for stealing your identity, along with what type of job you have or when you’ll be going on vacation. Shred any papers before chucking them to make it harder for crooks to put the pieces together, says Stern. Follow that with knowing these 13 personal details your house reveals about you so you can be more aware of what you’re broadcasting to the world.
Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock
An observant criminal will take note when there’s a pile of newspapers building up in front of your house. “When you’re on vacation, that’s a telltale sign you’re not there,” says Stern. When you’re away, ask a neighbor to pick up your papers, pamphlets, and anything else signaling no one is home, he suggests. Check out these other 13 ways to keep your home safe when you’re away.
A moving truck
Criminals rely on the fact that people don’t always know much about their neighbors. While a homeowner is on vacation, they might park a U-Haul in the empty driveway—after all, they would have taken the car on their trip—then load up without being questioned, says Stern. Learn the surprising time of day most burglaries happen.
Research actually suggests that break-ins are most likely to happen during the day. Burglars are most likely to enter homes on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. or from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Social media posts
Snooping crooks are just one more reason to worry about Internet privacy. “Burglars are using social media now to gather intelligence,” says Stern. “When people post information about their home or a Christmas party, they show different parts of the home or layout.” Especially on image-based platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, robbers could get a sense of where your valuables are to make an efficient theft. Also, avoid posting about your vacation until you’re home. Publicizing the fact that you’ll be away for two weeks—leaving your house unattended—opens the door for burglars to feel confident breaking in.
Of course some religious groups or salesmen ring the doorbells with innocent intentions, but some criminals also pose as them to get a look at the inside of your house. Pay attention to how they present themselves. “You talk to them and they don’t know much about the product, or they’re looking around the house more than trying to sell the vacuum cleaner,” says Logan. Your best bet is to play it safe and not open the door, says Stern. Ideally, you’d have a camera and audio system set up so you can see who’s outside your door and communicate with them without opening up. If you don’t, just shout out the door that you aren’t interested, suggests Stern.
A new cleaning person
If you have a cleaning team or other crew that visits frequently, a new person could be a red flag. Burglars might pay off people with access to your house to find out what’s inside, and some might even convince the team to let them pose as part of the crew, says Stern. When a new face shows up, he recommends calling the company and asking who the person is and why he or she is there. If they don’t know whom you’re talking about, it could be a crook—just one of the tricks a burglar won’t tell you.
Have we learned nothing from the numerous hacks and leaks in recent memory?
Password management company Splash Data released its annual list of the 100 worst passwords of the year based on 5 million leaked passwords on the internet. The top worst passwords continue to be “123456” and “password.”
Some of you have switched things up, as there are several new entries to this year’s list, like “donald” ranked at number 23, presumably inspired by President Donald Trump.
Check out the top 25 most used and least secure passwords of 2018 and whether yours made the cut.
1. 123456 (Rank unchanged from last year)
2. password (Unchanged)
3. 123456789 (Up 3)
4. 12345678 (Down 1)
5. 12345 (Unchanged)
6. 111111 (New)
7. 1234567 (Up 1)
8. sunshine (New)
9. qwerty (Down 5)
10. iloveyou (Unchanged)
11. princess (New)
12. admin (Down 1)
13. welcome (Down 1)
14. 666666 (New)
15. abc123 (Unchanged)
16. football (Down 7)
17. 123123 (Unchanged)
18. monkey (Down 5)
19. 654321 (New)
20. !@#$%^&* (New)
21. charlie (New)
22. aa123456 (New)
23. donald (New)
24. password1 (New)
25. qwerty123 (New)
If your password made the top 100 worst password list this year, you’d probably do well to change it. Splash Data recommends you:
1. Use passphrases of twelve characters or more with mixed types of characters.
2. Use a different password for each of your logins. That way, if a hacker gets access to one of your passwords, they will not be able to use it to access other sites.
3. Protect your assets and personal identity by using a password manager to organize passwords, generate secure random passwords, and automatically log into websites.