Check Out IoPhic in This Old House

On stands now, the IoPhic Smoke and Fire Alarm was named one of This Old House’s Top 100 Best New Home Products of 2012!

You can check out it out here.


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Thanksgiving Safety

Thanksgiving – a time for friends, family and feasting.  With everyone home for the holiday, you can be sure your kitchen is about to get a work out.  Before prepping the feast, prep your guests with these safety tips so everyone is ready for potential Thanksgiving mishaps:

  • Clean up before you start: a tidy space will eliminate unneeded chaos like broken dishes or cluttered walkways
  • Keep young kids at least three feet away from the stove at all times – if they want to help, have them prepare a cool dish that will not burn or scald
  • Stay in the kitchen when using the stove so you can watch out for any open flames
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy in case of grease fires – dousing it with water will only cause the fire to spread
  • If using a gas stove, plug a CO and natural gas detector nearby to catch any possible leaks
  • Plan the menu sans fried turkey – turkey fryers cause many concerns including burn and fire hazards
  • Make sure matches and lighters are up and out of reach of children
  • Test your smoke alarms to be sure they are working

What are your Thanksgiving plans?

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Home Improvement Rule Book

By Katie Bower, Bower Power 

We are big fans of doing it yourself. Why? Because when you tackle your own home improvement projects, you save labor costs, get the satisfaction of bragging to your friends about your pure awesomeness and don’t need to wait on any hired help (especially when it comes to things like a broken toilet that you need NOW (if you know what I mean).

But with all those pros, there is a major con…what about safety? How can you keep your house and family safe from the potential dangers of doing it wrong? Like the danger of a potential fire?  Is there a way to still save money but ensure that it’s getting done right? And when do you pull the DIYing plug and know your limits (aka not set your house inadvertently ablaze)? Well, here are some of our family’s DIY guidelines when it comes to fire safety and still maintain our title of DIYers…    


Two main areas in your home can start fires…electrical stuff and gas stuff. And there are a lot of resources, books, sites, forums and blogs that can help educate you before you start a project. Go to the library. Check out the book section at your local hardware store. Read them.  Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to sound like the fool.  And get to know other tradespeople and DIYers. Befriend a licensed electrician or a master plumber. And invest in the right prevention and fix it tools. One of our favorite tools for electrical work is under twenty bucks…it’s a non contact voltage tester…just to tell us whether or not a wire is still on!  


It’s easy to say blanket statements like “electrical work is too hard for me” and “I don’t do that”…but really, there are many easy projects anyone can tackle without burning down the house. Take for example switching out a light fixture or an electrical outlet. Both are easy DIY basics that deal with electrical work. Of course, it’s in your best interest to always have that buddy electrician check your work and to always make sure you are abiding to code (unlike the situation above we found in our wall – wires without a box surrounded by insulation is a big time no-no!).  And if something is beyond you…it’s okay to say so…


Old wiring and faulty electrical outlets cause most electrical fires. Other home electrical fires can be caused because of problems with cords, plugs, receptacles, and switches. Oh and you can’t forget light fixtures, lamps, light bulbs. A lot to think about. But really – what is avoidable? Here is some stuff to avoid…

  • Upgrade your fuse boxes to circuit breaker boxes
  • Don’t replace a 15-amp fuse with a high amp fuse.
  • Never insert a coin where a blown fuse once was
  • Don’t overload circuits
  • Use GFCI outlets near water sources such as sinks and
  • Check & maintain cords
  • Don’t run lamp cords under rugs or in high traffic areas
  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring
  • Replace all frayed, old or damaged appliance cords immediately
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen
  • Keep clothes, curtains, and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters
  • Put three-prong plugs only in a three-slot outlet
  • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets
  • Immediately shut off, then replace, light switches that are hot to the touch or lights that flicker


Gas operated appliances can be a big part of any home. We had installed a gas fireplace in our first house and I broke into a cold sweat every single time I thought about a cold night and a crackling fire. Why the nervousness?  I had no idea even how to detect a gas leak…much less fix one. And it only takes one little leak to start a fire…so again – have a friend or a pro check your installation. And here’s a big warning for you gas dryer folks out there…them suckers are dangerous if you fail to maintain or properly clean them regularly. With all your gas or high powered appliances, it is really helpful to create a calendar with notes on when and how to properly care for them and know the warning signs of a gas leak…here’s one: it’ll smell like rotten eggs. You can also install the 2-in-1 Carbon Monoxide and Natural Gas Detector on every floor of the home to catch any leaks.


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Home Safety Check List For Winter

By: Trisha Novotny, 24/7 Moms

As we head into the colder months we need to take time to prepare our homes and families for the upcoming winter. My home safety checklist will assist you in keeping your family safe during power outages and the upcoming cold weather.

Home Safety Checklist

_____ Day Light Savings is November 4th.When you are setting your clocks back use that as a reminder to also check all of the smoke alarms in your home. It is recommended that batteries in your smoke detectors be changed every six months.

_____ Clean your fireplace chimneys, especially if you will be using them this winter. This will keep your home smoke free as a clean chimney keeps the smoke from getting trapped and entering back in to your home.

_____ Install carbon monoxide (CO) and natural gas detectors on each floor of your home and near bedrooms. If one of your alarms goes off immediately move to fresh air and contact your local fire department.

_____ Place fire extinguishers on each floor of your home in easy to access locations (kitchen, master bedroom, hall closet, etc.)  Be sure to check expiration dates and replace when needed.

_____ Make sure all outdoor lighting is in working condition and entrances are well lit with motion detectors. 

_____ Stock up on salt to use on your walkways and driveways when icy.

_____ Check to see that all flashlights are in working condition and that you have an adequate supply of batteries. Avoid using candles during power outages.

_____ Have on a hand a battery-powered or hand-crank radio to use during power outages allowing your family to check on severe weather conditions.

_____ Inventory your family’s winter gear and replenish before the winter weather arrives. The items your family needs will depend on the area of the country you live, as well as what winter activities your family enjoys. Some of the items to inventory are: rain boots, gloves, winter jackets, snow pants, thermal underwear, hats, etc.

_____ Always have a week supply of:

  • Drinking water/bottled water
  • Canned/packaged food that does not require cooking (bread, crackers, nuts, dried fruits)
  • Manual can opener
  • Prescriptions and other medications
  • First-aid kit
  • Baby food and formula (if needed)
  • Pet food and supplies

_____ Create a safety plan for your family if they are away from home during a sever weather storm or other emergency. Establish who to call, where your central meeting place will be and what routes to use to get back home.

Being ready means you can enjoy the upcoming winter weather with confidence that your families will be safe.


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Outdoor Fall Fire Safety with Katie: Grills & Special Occasion Lighting

How do I say this?  Oh right…we almost caught our house on fire.  Awkward silence is totally acceptable.  The thing is, we made a big mistake in grill safety and thankfully we caught it in time.  But close calls are too close for comfort when it comes to your house and fire…so here are some of the things we do now to keep us safe from repeating our mistake:

  • Keep a clean grill and empty drip pan to prevent grease fires
  • Always take extra precautions with reattaching the gas container
  • Allow for at least ten feet from grill to any structures
  • Never grill under an enclosed structure
  • Check hoses and connectors regularly
  • Don’t attempt to fix any appliance yourself 

Fall signals the start of holiday season…first Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and Christmas…not to mention all the other special occasions that folks celebrate in between.  And if you enjoy decorating the exterior of your home as much as I do, you know that lights lend themselves to holiday spirit. Here’s a few ways we can keep our houses and kids safe:

    • Remember to switch off decorative lights when you go to bed
    • Always check twinkle lights for frayed ends and cracked cords
    • Make sure to plug outdoor lights into GFCI outlets
    • Double check your stringed lights to ensure they are rated for exterior use
    • Use battery operated candles in luminaries and carved pumpkins
    • Never leave candles or tiki torches in the reach of children or pets or near combustible items 
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Nuisances by the Numbers

We all have had those annoying nuisance alarms caused by smoke in the kitchen or steam in the shower. If you’re like most others, you probably just pulled down the alarm or removed the batteries to get the alarm to stop. Did you know that by doing this, you are putting your home and family at risk for fatal danger? Most home fire deaths could have been prevented if there was a working smoke alarm in the home.

Check out this infographic that highlights the dangers of this avoidable problem and learn what you can do to eliminate nuisance alarms. 

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5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids About Fire

By Silvia Martinez, Mama Latina Tips

This week we had a big festival in our hometown. The celebrations included delicious food, festive music, fireworks, and street performers. It was a big deal. But what really caught my 4-year-old’s eye was the fire breather in the town square. The fireworks were too loud for him, but he just couldn’t stop watching those flames blasting from that young man’s mouth.

Fireworks, campfires, fire breathers, the world overflows with eye-catching examples of both the beauty and the destructive power of fire.

On other subjects, I might have postponed the teaching opportunity until after the celebration – I don’t want to be a constant killjoy but, for me, fire is just too dangerous, destructive, capricious and alluring to not say something to the boys during the performance. Of course, just as I was about to say something of the don’t-try-this-at-home variety, my older son perked up first. “Mama,” he said, “I thought you said never to play with fire. Doesn’t that burn?”

He opened the door: I walked through it! “Well son, let me tell you a little bit about fire…..

So here are 5 tips you might want to try for teaching your children about fire safety:

1. Ring up the local firehouse and find out if they give tours. After all, they are the experts and odds are your kids will listen closely to what the firefighters have to say. My kids do, because they think firefighters are much cooler than I am. Besides, it’s just a very interesting field trip.

2. Make up a game where your kids have to “stay low and go” or “stop, drop, and roll.” For instance, Simon says stay low and go! You may already know, “stay low and go” refers to the technique for exiting a smoke-filled room by crawling in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed or disoriented by smoke. “Stop, drop and roll” refers to the technique for helping to extinguish a fire when the clothing a person is wearing is involved.

3. Teach your children they are not to hide when there is a fire, even if they are afraid of punishment because they started it.

4. Develop with your children a family fire escape plan and then practice getting out of the house quickly and safely during both daytime and nighttime practice runs.

5. Remind your children not to play in the kitchen, and never, ever play near the stove. A surgeon friend of mine once told me the worst injury he had ever seen in the emergency room was a child burned by a pot of boiling water pulled down on himself from the stove.

Fire can be beautiful and alluring, but it can also devastate quickly and completely. Be prepared and be safe.

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Pancake Alarms

By Tricia Callahan, Once A Month Mom 

Meet the Landes family! The Landes’ have been friends of ours for years and you can’t mention smoke alarms without me thinking of them. Why you ask? How about if I let them tell you!

Pancake Alarms Video

It seems that Mom (Heidi) is NOTORIOUS for waking everyone up, not with the smell of freshly made pancakes, but with the smoke alarm. Not just once, or twice, but EVERY time that she makes pancakes! I will never forget sitting and listening to the kids tell me that when they hear the smoke alarm going off in the morning they KNOW that their mom has been cooking them a delicious breakfast.

This all seems rather comical to the Landes’, and to us, until it isn’t. See, what happens if there is a REAL fire one day and that alarm is going off? Will the kids react or will they simply be leisurely strolling out of bed thinking there are pancakes in their future? The truth is, they are becoming desensitized to the alarms warning cries as a result of the false alarms.

In this way, the IoPhic alarms are an amazing breakthrough. Now, the kids will know that the alarm is really that, an alarm that should be heeded and their chance of survival is much higher in the case of a fire. I love their stories, but hopefully they can find a new family tradition to mark their morning breakfasts. And we can help to keep them safe.

What about your family? Do you have “pancakes” at your house? Do have a food item that ALWAYS sets off the smoke alarm? We would love to hear more about your stories and how IoPhic technology would make your family safer on the Universal Security Instruments Facebook page!

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Outdoor Fall Fire Safety with Katie: Leaves & Trees

By Katie Bower, Bower Power 

We try our best to keep our lawn free from leaves. Those fun jumping mounds are like the ultimate fire starter. And during ‘burn’ season, even trees can be a hazard for your home. Here’s what I learned when it comes to yard care & fires:

    • Don’t burn leaves – use proper disposal containers for recycling
    • Maintain trees and leave adequate spacing between plantings
    • Trim lower limbs from 6 feet (shorter trees) up to 15 feet (larger trees)
    • Keep brush away from buildings
    • Don’t skimp on tree irrigation to help keep shade trees healthy 

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Add Fire Safety to your Halloween List

It’s that time of year again. When witches, ghosts and ghouls lurk behind every shadow, it’s easy to let spooky thoughts creep up behind you. With a little time for safety pre-planning, you can ensure your home and family will be ready for Halloween fun. Follow these tricks to leave your extra worries aside and spend more time enjoying the festivities:

  • Dried leaves and cornstalks are a sure sign of autumn but are also highly flammable.  Keep these decorations outside and away from open flames and heaters.
  • Instead of open flame candles or torches, use flashlights or battery-powered “candles” when lighting jack-o-lanterns and luminaries to prevent fires from forgotten decorations.
  • Are your kids trick-or-treating? Check all the candy they bring home and dispose of any open or homemade items. 
  • Rethink your costumes for safety. If you are making your own vampire cape or flowing princess dress, use flame-resistant fabric so it won’t catch on fire.
  • Keep all entryways and your planned Family Escape Route clear of spooky decorations to prevent a hold up in the event of an emergency.

Follow these foolproof tricks to keep your home safe and scare free.

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