Delmarva Emergency Number - 1-800-898-8045
To turn off electricity in the entire house, go to the main service panel (see picture) usually located in the garage or basement and flip the LARGE Master Breaker Switch at the bottom of the breaker panel.
To switch off only portions of the house, flip the applicable circuit breaker in the panel to OFF.
If your box is not labeled as to what the individual circuit breakers control, it would be a good idea to do so.
You may need to get at the panel in the dark or in a hurry during an emergency. Make sure all adults in your home know where to find the panel.
Master shutoff location
Keep the path to the panel clear and never block your circuit breaker panel with stored items!
Surprisingly enough, the worst trouble caused by power outages often occurs when the problem is resolved and the power comes back on.
- Prepare for surges: Turn off and unplug all electrical equipment, including your tools, appliances and electronics, and turn your heating thermostat down (or cooling thermostat up) to prevent damage from surges when the power returns. (Major appliances can be turned off at the breaker box.) Leave one light on so you’ll know when the power is restored.
- What not to do: Once the power is restored, don’t turn everything back on at once, which can create internal power surges. First restore the thermostat setting on the heating or cooling system and turn on your larger appliances. Give the electrical system a few minutes to stabilize before plugging in your remaining appliances and electronics.
- Watch for more trouble: If your lights are noticeably dimmer or brighter after the power is restored, turn off all the power at the breaker or fuse box and call your electric utility.
Lightning strikes can burn out circuit boards in appliances, computers and telephones, doing thousands of dollars in damage in less than a second. If you hear thunder, power surges are possible, even if you don’t see any lightning.
- Protect your gadgets: Unplug computers and phone lines, and unplug corded telephones and sensitive electronics to prevent damage from power surges.
- Play it safe: Lightning may strike nearby electrical and phone lines and travel to your home. Avoid contact with electrical appliances and telephones (landlines).
- Wacky but true: Lightning strikes can travel through metal plumbing pipes. Avoid sitting on the toilet and don’t shower or bathe during electrical storms.
Don’t wait for flames: If your home gets hit, call the fire department immediately. Lightning strikes can cause small fires inside walls that smolder for hours before you notice anything.
Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning (HVAC)
Understand How Your System Works
Click to enlarge
Most central air conditioners have two basic parts: an outdoor unit (compressor/condenser) that sits next to your home and an indoor unit (evaporator) that’s located in a central duct near your furnace. If you have a heat pump instead of a furnace, the indoor unit will be in the air handler.
. If you are not already on a periodic preventive maintenance program for your A/C or heat pump, contact a HVAC contractor and get on one.
Schedule a yearly preventative maintenance checkup.
HVAC systems are complex and should be serviced at least once a year. If your air conditioner or furnace keeps breaking down, it might be time to get a new HVAC system. Most systems last 10 to 14 years if maintained regularly and serviced when needed.
Symphony Village homes were constructed with air conditioning systems capable of maintaining a temperature of 78 degrees or a differential of 15 degrees from the outside temperature and heating systems capable of maintaining a temperature of 70 degrees. In extremely cold temperatures (10 degrees below or colder), the system should be able to maintain a temperature differential of 80 degrees.
- Keep it Clean: Vacuum the fins of your AC unit clean with a soft-bristle brush. Note: they’re fragile and can easily be bent or crushed. On many units you’ll have to unscrew and lift off a metal box to get at them. Check your owner’s manual for directions and lift off the box carefully to avoid bumping the fins.
- Fix Fins: Realign bent or crushed fins with gentle pressure from a dinner knife. Don’t insert the knife more than 1/2 in.
- Unclog the Condensate Drain Tube: When you see water puddling around the furnace with the AC running, you have a clogged condensate drain tube. Condensation from air conditioning coils contains bacteria that can form slime and clog the condensate pan drain tube.
- Check the air filter. The air filter in your furnace traps dirt, pollen, dust and other particles during both cooling season and heating season. When those particles build up on the surface of the air filter, they slow the flow of air, so the HVAC blower has to work harder. Check the air filter every month and replace it if it’s dirty.
- Check the AC vents. Wipe a pipe cleaner across the louvres that cover the opening to the air conditioner vents in your rooms. Odds are good that you’ll find dust, but if the pipe cleaner also picks up black fuzz, it could be a sign of mold. Have a professional inspect the vents.
- Hear strange noises? Your HVAC system should run pretty quietly. If you hear clanging, banging or other unusual noises, it could be a sign of trouble. Schedule a visit with an HVAC expert.
Setting the Thermostat
- Set your thermostat at one temperature. Constant adjusting can cause higher utility costs, especially in the Winter.
- If using your thermostat as a setback type, limit the setbacks to twice a day such as when you are at work and when you are sleeping.
- Only setback the thermostat 6% of desired temperature (approximately five degrees).
- During the heating season, try not to set the thermostat below 65 degrees.
- In the cooling mode, try not to set the thermostat below 70 degrees. Besides higher utility costs, this can cause the indoor coil to freeze and cause condensation in the house.
Get a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat is a must-have in today’s state of HVAC technology. Programmable thermostats allow you to set temperatures for various times throughout the day and automatically adjust the temperature when you most need it to help you save money and manage your heating and cooling without constantly hovering over the dial.
Winterizing A/C Units
Many homeowners are tempted to wrap their air conditioner condensers (the outside unit) to protect them over the winter. But wrapping an A/C condenser is never a good idea. Steel rusts, and wet steel rusts even more. Even when wrapped tightly, your condenser isn't airtight. So moisture gets trapped under your tarp and condenses on the inside of the unit. The moisture on your neighbor's condenser is free to evaporate.
Covering an A/C condenser also encourages rodents to move the family into new digs where they're protected from the elements. Once they're settled in, they'll gnaw on the compressor wiring and insulation. Come spring, you'll have a stinky cleanup, a rusty A/C condenser and a hefty bill for rewiring.
If you want to protect the unit from falling icicles, just place a piece of plywood over the fan guard and weight it down with bricks. If you want to protect the metal and keep it looking good, give your condenser a coat of car wax before the snow flies.
Winter Tips for Heat Pumps
Frozen Outdoor Unit
- Make it a habit to look at the outdoor unit during the winter months for signs of excessive ice or snow build-up on or around it, especially after bad weather.
- If a heat pump is covered in ice or snow, it must be removed in order to work properly. Turn the thermostat to Emergency heat or the off position and remove the snow and ice. You can pour warm water over the unit to melt the snow and ice. Even cold water from a hose will help, but do not use hot water.
- Do not use any sharp objects to pick or knock the ice off the coils of the unit. This could cause severe damage and personal injury.
- Once the unit is clear of snow and ice turn the thermostat back to normal heating. If the unit ices up again, call for service.
- Do not let the outdoor unit sit underneath a leaking gutter. In the winter months, water will drip on the top of the unit and freeze solid. This will restrict the air flow and cause the whole unit to freeze-up.
- Outdoor units should be elevated 4 to 8 inches above ground level to keep coils clear of snow and ice and to allow for proper drainage.
HOT WATER HEATER
Hot Water Heater Overview
A water heater that has an integrated storage tank is often referred to as simply the “hot water tank”. You can find these in various sizes, though 40 gallon tanks are the most popular.
A hot water tank uses either a gas or electric heating element to heat and store water at a set temperature. Most homes in Symphony Village use propane as the fuel for their hot water heater.
Hot Water Heater Parts
Hot Water Shutoff
The shutoff valves for the hot water heater should be labled with the words “on” and “off” for the direction for each. If not, usually counterclockwise is on and clockwise is off.
Your valves may look different than the ones in the display. They may also be in different places, depending on the model of your house (usually in the garage, laundry room, or basement).
In any event, you should locate them and make sure you understand how they function.
Typical shutoff locations
Once you have located your various shutoffs, tag them so you can easily find them when you need them.
Your water heater needs routine maintenance to keep you comfortable. Here are seven routine, important water heater maintenance tips:
- Control the temperature setting. Set your water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees for maximum efficiency. Setting it any higher can decrease efficiency and increase the chance of scalding.
- Provide insulation. Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket that helps enhance performance and decrease standby heat loss.
- Give it space. Be sure to maintain 2 feet of space around your unit. The top of a gas-fired water heater should never be used as a storage shelf.
- Keep it clean. The area around a gas-fired water heater should be vacuumed as needed to prevent dust from interfering with proper flame combustion.
- Take care when on vacation. Use your water heater’s “vacation” setting when you leave town, which maintains the pilot light without heating any water.
- Install a water softener. This helps prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your water heater caused by mineral deposits.
- Maintain the PT valve. Replace the pressure and temperature (PT) valve. on your hot water heater every three years to protect it from extreme pressure and temperature.
- Tune it up. Don’t forget to schedule your annual water heater tune-up. Your plumber should check the pressure relief valve, drain your tank to remove any sediment, if needed, inspect the tank and connections for rust, wear or corrosion, and replace worn anode rods.
A gushing plumbing leak can dump several gallons per minute into your home. You have to act fast to stop the stream — and that’s just the beginning. To turn off water to the entire house, locate the shutoff in the laundry area, probably near the hot water heater. There are two types of shutoffs used:
. Turn the handle one-quarter turn so the handle is across the pipe instead of aligned with the pipe (shown in the off position in the photo),
. Turn the handle clockwise until fairly tight. Don’t force it!
Be careful not to twist or pull on the shutoff or pipe.
Stop the flow
– Shutting off the main water valve is an obvious move. But there may still be a few gallons of water held in pipes above the leak. After the water is shut off, turn on the lowest faucet in the house, which will let the water harmlessly drain out of the faucet instead of through the leaking pipe.
Don’t delay cleanup
– The longer things stay wet, the more likely you’ll have permanent damage. Delay can even lead to mold problems inside walls, which can cost thousands to eradicate. So before you run off to buy plumbing parts, clean up the mess.
Provided the home is heated at a normal level, pipes should not freeze. Heat should be set at 65 degrees if you are away during winter months. Garage doors should be kept closed to protect plumbing lines, which may run through this area.
Water Shutoff Valve
Typical shutoff location
Outside faucets are “freeze proof”, but in order for this feature to be effective, hoses must be removed after each use. If a hose is left attached, the water that remains in the hose can freeze and expand back into the pipe causing a break in the line.
HINT: Turn off water to your outside faucets from the inside in late fall to keep the water lines and faucets from freezing.
The shutoff valves are located inside the house, probably under the kitchen sink and under the bathroom sink or in access panels. Close the valve by turning to the right (clockwise). Then go outside and open the faucet to drain out any water in the line.
To turn off all propane going to your heating unit or/and fireplace(s), locate the shutoff immediately outside the house (in the back against the wall — see photo at right). Turn the valve one-quarter turn by hand or with a pair of pliers (depends upon your type of shutoff). When the valve is open, it is aligned up and down with the pipe (parallel); when it is closed, it is crosswise (perpendicular) across the pipe.
CAUTION: If you have to turn off the outside gas, contact your propane company to have them turn it back on.
Outdoor shutoff location
What to do if you Smell Gas
- Do not light matches and immediately extinguish all smoking materials and open flames
- Do not operate electric switches, appliances or flashlights.
- Get everyone out of the area where you suspect the gas is leaking
- Leave doors and windows open, but don't take the time to open them if they are closed.
- Turn off the gas supply valve of your propane tank if it is safe to do so
- Once away from the leak, call 911 and contact your propane supplier. A list of phone numbers can be found here.
- Do not return to the area until your propane retailer, emergency responder, or qualified service technician determines it is safe to do so
- Get your system checked. Before you attempt to use any of your propane appliances, your propane retailer or a qualified service technician must check your entire system to ensure that it is leak-free.
Do Not Run Out of Gas!
Running out of gas can be hazardous!
Serious safety hazards, including fire or explosion, can result. If an appliance valve or a gas line is left open when the propane supply runs out, a leak could occur when the system is recharged with propane. Air and moisture could get into an empty or depleted storage tank, which can cause rust build-up inside the tank. Rust can decrease the concentration of the odor of propane, making it harder to smell. If your propane tank runs out of gas, any pilot lights on your appliances will go out. This can be extremely dangerous if not handled properly.
More Propane Safety Tips
- Always keep flammable and combustible materials (e.g., paper, clothing, wood, gasoline, and solvents) away from any open flames that originate from your appliances.
- Know how to shut off the gas supply from your tank or cylinder. If you do not know how, contact your propane supplier for instructions.
- Never place your head near or directly over the valves on your storage tank. A sudden release of product from the safety relief valve could result in serious injury.
- The propane liquid that is stored in your tank or cylinder can cause severe frostbite if it comes in contact with your skin or eyes.
- Never store propane cylinders or containers inside any enclosed building.
- Treat all propane gas odors seriously. Any odors may indicate a very dangerous situation.
- Never assume that propane odor is only the result of your tank being near empty. If the odor persists, you may have a serious leak.
- You should contact your propane supplier if you suspect a leak.
Smoke Detector Maintenance
Check all smoke detectors twice a year at daylight savings times. Press the TEST button to see that they alarm. Replace the battery at this time also. If you hear a chirping sound coming from the alarm, you need to immediately replace the battery.
- Test smoke alarms once a month
- Replace batteries twice a year.
- Never “borrow” a battery from a smoke alarm
- Don’t disable smoke alarms even temporarily
- Regularly vacuuming or dusting your smoke alarm can keep them working properly
Hint: schedule battery replacements for the same day you change your clocks for daylight savings time
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly. Smoking a cigarette, idling a gasoline engine and burning fuel oil, wood, kerosene, natural gas and propane all produce CO. High levels of CO can be produced when fuels are burned incompletely. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States. Take it seriously and make sure you have working CO detectors in your home.
Check for symptoms: Symptoms of CO poisoning are "flu-like" and include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and confusion. If the alarm sounds and anyone is expe-riencing any of these symptoms, get everyone out of the house and call 911.
Never ignore the alarm: You should suspect the presence of CO if your symptoms improve or disappear when you leave a particular building where you think there may be a buildup of CO. If that occurs, here are some lifesaving tips:
- Don’t assume all is well if no one feels ill.
- Open all windows and doors to let in the fresh air.
- Turn off all potential sources of CO—your oil or gas furnace, gas water heater, gas range and oven, gas dryer, gas or kerosene space heater, and any vehicle or small engine.
- Call your fuel supplier or a licensed heating contractor immediately for an emergency inspection of your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they’re operating correctly and that there’s nothing blocking the vents that let fumes out of the house.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
You may take your roof for granted because it is generally out of sight, out of mind. It is the first line of defense, protecting your home from weather damage by acting as the shield that sheds water and protects against snow and ice. As such it is constantly subjected to potential wear and tear that can erode its service life. While most shingle roofs can last anywhere from 15 to 25 years, incremental damage can reduce the lifespan and necessitate an early roof replacement. However a little regular attention can keep them at peak performance. That’s why it is important to keep an eye out for early warning signs with a thorough visual inspection at least once a year.
How to Inspect Your Roof
Most homeowners are not comfortable climbing a ladder and getting on the roof and that’s OK. While a professional roofer will certainly take this approach, a homeowner can do a thorough inspection from the ground with a pair of binoculars.
Once you are ready to inspect your roof you will need to know what to look for. Damage can occur from wind, hail, water and falling objects like tree limbs so there are a variety of ways damage can present itself. The sections on indoor and outdoor inspection provide some of the clear signs that your roof may need attention.
- Look for leaks – One of the most telling signs of trouble with your roof is leaks inside the house. Consistent leaks after rain are obvious but you should also pay close attention after severe weather. The combination of high wind and rain can often stress a roof at its weakest points and reveal early signs that areas need attention. Look specifically in areas where dormers, chimneys or other obstructions create potential leaks.
- Look for granules in gutter and downspouts – Asphalt shingles have a top coating of granules that protect the softer surfaces from UV radiation. It is normal for some of these granules to end up in gutters and downspouts so the mere sight of them is not cause for alarm. However, if you notice a sudden increase of granules it is a sign that shingles may be approaching the end of their service life. Without a consistent coating of granules, shingles are vulnerable to UV radiation that will make them brittle and susceptible to damage.
- Visible shingle damage – Inspect the shingles and look for cracked, cupped, or missing shingles.
Damage to Flashing – Flashing protects transition areas in your roof where shingles meet siding. Missing or damaged flashing will allow moisture under the shingles and begin to cause damage to the roof system and the structure itself.
- Broken or Missing Shingles – Shingles that have become brittle will crack when subjected to heavy winds and eventually may break off completely. While overlapped shingle courses will prevent immediate leaks from missing shingles, it is a clear sign that there is an issue.
- Cupped Shingles – Also look for cupped shingles. Cupping often occurs when an attic is not vented properly and overheats the underside of the shingle causing the edge to curl or cup.
- Flapping shingle – If you get the opportunity, look at your roof on a very windy day. If you see shingles lifting or flapping in the wind, the sealant strip under the shingles may have been damaged. This can allow water into the system where it can do damage.
If your roof passes these inspection points then you are probably in pretty good shape, but if one or more of these trouble spots appear it may be time to call a professional. While an inspection by a homeowner can catch some obvious signs, a professional roof inspection will provide a clear picture of what’s happening and also provide information about roof repair and roof replacement options.
A final area that often causes confusion when homeowners inspect their roofs are black stains on the roof. While this can look unsightly, it is not a sign of damage. The stains are caused by algae growing on the shingles. While it will not affect the ability of the roof system to protect your house, the aesthetic impact can make it difficult to sell. There are ways to deal with it on existing roofs, but if your roof is near the end of its service life, it may be wise to replace the roof with modern algae-resistant shingles.
TOWN WATER SHUTOFF
If a water pipe in your home or yard breaks, would you know how to shut off the water to avoid flooding?
Find out where your water meter and shut-off valve are located before there’s an emergency.
When to Shut It Off
You should shut off the street water for either of these reasons:
- Your inside water main valve fails and you have a water emergency (burst pipe)
- You have a leak or burst pipe before the main inside valve (between the street and the inside valve)
How to Shut the Water Off
In an emergency, to completely shut off water coming from the city into your house, open the circular cover out by the curb (see the Cleared Meter Cover picture). There is a 5-sided nut that needs to be turned. Assuming you do not have a 5-sided socket, a pair of pliers or vise-grips will do the job. When the lid is off, look inside for a one-quarter turn valve and use your pliers or a wrench to turn the valve one-quarter turn to the right (clockwise).
Water Shutoff Valve
Water Meter Access
Is your water shutoff and meter access grown over with grass? If so, you should trim around the access so that the water supply could be located and shut off if there is a water leak between the town water supply and your house.
Generally, there is a water shutoff access between each two homes; look for it between the curb and the sidewalk. If there are two valves, be sure to turn your valve — the one toward your property.
Centreville Water Department Contact Information
For general information about the Water Department, or to report problems with water service during normal business hours of 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
, please call 410-758-1180
If the water problem is on private property (e.g. on the customer’s property or the customer’s side of the water meter), please contact a licensed plumber to assist. If the source of the problem is in the public right-of-way, and if you are not able to speak with a Town employee when calling the number above, and if the water problem cannot wait until the next business day, please dial the emergency dispatch number, 410-758-0080. Please report the specific location and nature of the problem.
FILE OF LIFE
What is it?
The File of Life
is a summary of your health information that Queen Anne's County Emergency Personnel (EMTs, firemen) are trained to look for hanging from your refrigerator. Filling out this simple form, attaching it to your refrigerator with the included magnetic holder, and updating it frequently with your current information can save valuable time and perhaps your life.
Fill out the form in pencil, slip it into the provided sleeve, and attach it to the refrigerator. The file contains your name, address, doctors, emergency contacts, medical data, pertinent personal data, medical conditions (checklist), allergies (checklist), and your insurance information. Then, update it when you have changes and/or review it each six months for updates. It's a no brainer!
QAC encourages each resident to attach a 4 by 3 inch File of Life sticker in a prominent place near the front door.
Get a File of Life for each household member from the Management Office at the SV Clubhouse or call Eileen Rowley (703 946-1075) and leave a message, or send an e-mail to:
SV Emergency Information Form
What is it?
In the event of severe weather problems, power failures, other possible disaster situations, or personal emergencies, the Symphony Village Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers could be your first responders prior to the arrival of professional emergency response personnel. A group of your Symphony Village neighbors have completed classes and are certified by Queen Anne’s County as members of CERT.
To help us as first responders, we ask that you voluntarily complete this CONFIDENTIAL Emergency Information Form
and return it to the SV Management Office. The form is available from the clubhouse, by clicking the picture at the right.
Get a Copy
Click on the form for a printable copy
The form contains information about who the occupants of the house are, who has key access to the house, if anyone has any disabilities, and other information that might be useful to first responders in an emergency.
Prevent Home Fires
Home fires are preventable! Simple steps that each of us can take to prevent a tragedy are included in the areas of:
Timeline of a typical housefire
- Electrical & Appliance Safety
- Portable Space Heaters
- Gas Fireplaces
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
- Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a"kid-free zone" of 3 feet around the stove.
- Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- If smoking outside, completely stub out butts in an ashtray or a can filled with sand.
- Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
- Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used, even if it is turned off. Oxygen can be explosive and makes fire burn hotter and faster.
- Be alert – don’t smoke in bed! If you are sleepy, have been drinking, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy, put your cigarette out first.
Electrical & Appliance Safety
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
Portable Space Heaters
- Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices.
- Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Check to make the portable heater has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
Have a professional, like a fireplace retailer, inspect and clean your gas log set once a year. During a routine maintenance inspection, the professional will:
- Clean and adjust the logs and accessories like the glowing “embers” so they look their best.
- Clean the fan and air circulation passages.
- Clean the glass.
- Check the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector.
- Make sure vents are unobstructed.
More Prevention Tips
- Never use stove range or oven to heat your home.
- Keep combustible and flammable liquids away from heat sources.
While the Internet brings many conveniences, it also comes with risks. Cybercriminals use sophisticated techniques to appear legitimate; they pose as:
- Friends or family members
- Mortgage vendors
- Healthcare and low-cost prescription providers
to steal information in order to conduct identity theft, phishing schemes, credit card fraud, and more.
Learning about ways to protect your identity and personal information online is just as important as understanding how to use the latest technology. Fortunately, making safer and smarter decisions online can be as simple as following these tips:
- Create passwords and make them strong. If you do not use the password feature on your internet-enabled devices, you leave them open to whomever may pick them up. Lock all of your devices including computer, tablet and smartphone with secure passwords. That will keep prying eyes out and add a line of defense in case your devices are lost or stolen. A strong password is at least 12 characters long. Strong password tips include the use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols, and try not to include personal information.
- Secure access to your accounts. Since passwords can be stolen, adding two-step authentication to accounts provides a second layer of protection. Many online services, including apps and websites, offer free options that could help you protect your information and ensure it’s actually you trying to access your account – not just someone with your password. Learn to “Lock Down Your Login” at www.lockdownyourlogin.com. And, for more information about two-step authentication, go to www.turnon2fa.com.
- Secure access to your devices. Keep your mobile devices in your possession at all times and always be aware of your surroundings.
- Think before you act. Emails and communications that create a sense of urgency such as a problem with your bank account or taxes is likely a scam. Consider reaching out directly to the company by phone to determine if the email is legitimate or not.
- Most businesses or organizations don’t ask for your personal information over email. Beware of any requests to update or confirm your personal information.
- Avoid opening attachments, clicking on links, or responding to email messages from unknown senders or companies that ask for your personal information.
- Beware of “free” gifts or prizes. If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.
- When in doubt, throw it out. Clicking on links in emails is often how scammers get access to personal information. If an email looks unusual, even if you know the person who sent it, it’s best to delete it. Remember that scammers can commandeer friends’ email addresses and send you messages posing as them. Turn on spam filters for your email account to help filter suspicious messages.
- Share with care. Be aware of what you share publicly on social media sites like Facebook. Adjust your privacy settings to limit who can see your information. Avoid sharing your location. It is important to add only people you know on social media sites and programs like Skype; adding strangers could expose you and your personal information to scammers.
- Use security software. Install security software on your devices from a reliable source and keep it updated. It is best to run the anti-virus and anti-spyware software regularly. Be wary of security updates from pop-up ads or emails. They may actually be malware that could infect your computer.
- Adjust your browser safety settings. You likely search for news, information and products by using an internet browser such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari. Adjust your settings in each of those browsers to set your options for optimum security. Those menus can often be found in the upper right corner of your browser. Consider clearing your browsing history at the end of your session so you don’t leave a trail of sensitive data.
- Use the default firewall security protection on your computer. Your operating system (OS) likely has default firewall settings that will protect your computer without needing adjustment. If your antivirus software includes additional firewall protection that you can adjust separately, consider contacting a computer professional for assistance to ensure you’re safely protected without over-blocking sites and programs you use regularly.
- Log out. Remember to log out of apps and websites when you are done using them. Leaving them open on your computer screen could make you vulnerable to security and privacy risks.
- Consider support. If you live alone or spend a lot of time by yourself, consider a trusted source to serve as a second set of eyes and ears. Adult family members and grandchildren who are computer savvy may be willing to help.
Protect Yourself from Online Fraud
When seeking the following information online, you can take precautions to protect yourself from fraud:
- Be sure to find out who is providing the information, know where you’re going online.
- Many pharmaceutical companies create websites with information to sell products.
- Look for sites ending in .edu (for education) or .gov (for government).
- Avoid accessing your personal or bank accounts from a public computer or kiosk, such as the public library.
- Don’t reveal personally identifiable information such as your bank account number, social security number or date of birth to unknown sources.
- When paying a bill online or making an online donation, be sure that you type the website URL into your browser instead of clicking on a link or cutting and pasting it from the email.
- Make sure the website address starts with “https,” s stands for secure.
- Look for the padlock icon at the bottom of your browser, which indicates that the site uses encryption.
- Type new website URLs directly into the address bar instead of clicking on links or cutting and pasting from the email.
While the Internet allows us to stay connected, informed, and involved with family and friends, any public environment requires awareness and caution. Just as you use locks to keep criminals out of your home, you also need safeguards to secure your computer. Below find resources and materials to help you stay cyber safe.
RESOURCES FOR SENIOR RESIDENTS
The following resources from government agencies, universities, and other trusted organizations provide tips on how to stay safe at home as a senior.
Discover tips for the essentials of senior home safety from these resources. You'll find seasonal tips, general home safety, and more.
Fall, Fire, & Accident Prevention
Falls are among the most common accidents at home for seniors, and elderly adults are especially at risk of death due to house fires. Use these resources to find out how you can take steps to prevent these tragedies.
- Older Adult Falls: This resource from the CDC shares how dangerous older adult falls can be and proven ways to reduce falls.
- Home SAFE: Find resources for fall prevention, home modification, fire protection, and healthy home strategies from Home SAFE.
- 5 Fall Safety Precautions for the Elderly: Griswold Home Care shares give important safety precautions the elderly should take to avoid falling.
- Home Safety for the Elderly: Miami Dade's guide to home safety for the elderly focuses on falls, fire, and other hazards.
- Fire Safety Outreach Materials for Older Adults: Discover senior fire safety statistics, a fire safety checklist, tips, fire escape planning, and more in this resource from the U.S. Fire Administration.
- Slip, Trip, and Fall Protection for Older Adults: The National Safety Council's resource shares information on preventing falls, slips, and trips in the elderly population.
- Fire Safety for Seniors: FDNY's guide to fire safety for seniors is full of helpful tips for preventing specific fires, fire escape planning, smoke alarm maintenance, and a handy fire safety checklist.
Home Safety Products
Discover how you can make senior homes safer using safety products, making home safety modifications, and more.
Another home safety concern for seniors: food. Elderly adults are more susceptible to illness from food borne illnesses. These resources explain how seniors can eat, safety, and store food safely.
Use these resources for assessments and checklists to find out if you have any items that need attention in your home.
Home Safety Blogs & Articles
Get ongoing updates and alerts on senior home safety from these blogs written just for seniors concerned with safety.
- Age in Place: Age in Place is an excellent resource for senior safety, offering articles and more explaining how the elderly can manage safety hazards and more.
- Safety for Seniors at Home: Find out how you can make your home senior safe with home security, fire safety, gas and electric safety, and more.
- Senior Home Safety Blog: Follow this blog for senior home safety information and news on senior home care safety initiatives.