A to Z Guide to Security, Safety and Prevention

Amanda Bell
Written by Amanda Bell
Updated October 19, 2016
Outdoor lighting for a house
Strategically placed outdoor lighting can help deter burglars and ensure safety for you and your guests after dark. (Photo courtesy of Angi member Scott L. of Alhambra, Calif.)

Learn quick tips and terms that span the alphabet and cover home security, safety, storm preparation, insurance coverage and other common home disaster incidents.

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A: Act of God

Insurance lingo for naturally occurring events that you can't avoid through preventive measures that damage your home or possessions. Acts of God include hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, hail and lightning-induced fires.

B: Bug Out Bag

In survivalist speak, it's a bag with food and supplies to last at least 72 hours in case you're stranded or need to evacuate the area.

C: Carbon monoxide detector

If you rely on alternative fuel sources for heating, cooling or cooking after a power outage, beware carbon monoxide buildup from the combustion fumes that small gas engines and generators produce. To lower your risk, avoid running these devices in an enclosed area.

D: Duct tape

Keep a few rolls in your emergency kit to MacGyver a solution for a variety of disaster situations. A few ideas: raft, sandals, leak-proof water canister or rope.

E: Earthquake

About 20,000 earthquakes shake up the United States each year, though most are small. Minimize quake damage to your home by incorporating seismic resistance features, including adding steel reinforcements to the walls and installing rounded windows.

F: Flood insurance

Don't think flood insurance is worth it? Consider that a $100,000 flood insurance premium costs about $400 a year ($33 a month). Compare that to a $50,000 federal disaster assistance loan paid back at 4 percent interest — $240 a month ($2,880 a year) for 30 years.

G: Glass-break sensor

These sensors have a highly sensitive microphone that recognizes the frequency of breaking glass, which, if detected, sounds an alarm. One glass-break sensor can usually protect every window in a room.

H: Hurricane

Forecasters can predict where hurricanes may land in time for the five-day forecast. You'll hear a hurricane watch about 48 hours in advance, meaning cyclone conditions may affect your area. Warnings, which indicate a storm more than likely will hit your area, come with about 36 hours notice.

I: IP surveillance

Calling it the Neteye 200, Axis Communications released the first digitally networked IP (internet protocol) surveillance system in 1996, making recorded footage available remotely for the first time.

J: Jumper cables

Never be without this auto emergency toolkit essential. Not sure which kind to buy? The lower the gauge, the more power goes through and the faster it will charge.

K: Keylogger

A usually covert computer program that tracks sequential strokes on your keyboard to allow remote hackers to capture your passwords and online banking and credit card information. Protect yourself against keyloggers by installing anti-spyware software on your device.

L: Lockout

A lockout situation can easily cost from $50 to $100, depending on the time, location and particular situation. If you find yourself frequently locked out of your home, consider hiring a pro to install a keyless lock system, which costs around $150 to $250.

M: Motion sensor

Security system hardward that can detect between 50 and 80 feet and which are best installed at "choke-points" — areas where people have to walk through, like the stairwell or main hallway — and near the master bedroom, where most intruders start their search for valuables. 

N: NOAA weather radio

This network of radio stations broadcasts public safety information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including official National Weather Service alerts and other threats.

O: Outdoor lighting

To deter crime while saving energy, connect exterior fixtures to a motion sensor to illuminate hidden nooks when people come onto your property. Strategically lit walkways and entries can also help ensure safety for you and your guests after dark.

P: Panic room

Also called a safe room, this reinforced enclosure inside a home is designed to be a refuge from natural disasters, break-ins or other threats. This room is often stocked with food, water, first aid supplies and other items useful in an emergency.

Q: Questions

In addition to passwords, many financial institutions now use security questions to authenticate your identity when you make transactions online. Pick questions with answers you know you'll remember (like where you were born) versus those that may change (like your favorite color).

R: Rain gutters

When preparing your home for hurricanes or other stormy weather, make sure gutters and downspouts remain clear and firmly attached to help avoid flooding, as well as exterior damage.

S: Shelter-in-place

If chemical, biological or radiological contaminants get released into the environment, you may be advised to evacuate or "shelter-in-place," which means taking refuge in a small, interior room in your house with few or no windows.

T: Thorny plants

Planting prickly bushes or trees on the exterior windows of your home is just one of the ways you can use landscaping to deter burglary.

U: Umbrella policy

Invest in this type of policy, which provides additional liability insurance above and beyond that covered by other policies like homeowners and auto. It kicks in once you've exhausted the limits of your other policies, offering an extra layer of protection.

V: Valve

Understand how to shut off your gas valve in an emergency situation, and keep a wrench nearby. You may need to do so if you smell natural gas or hear it leaking, a nearby fire threatens your home or if you're under advisement from local officials.

W: Wipes

Include five packets of antiseptic towels when assembling a family first aid kit. Other items to include: scissors, adhesive bandages, aspirin and tweezers. Visit the Red Cross for more info.

X: X

You may have heard the old myth about taping an X on your windows to reinforce them during high winds or hurricanes, but experts warn this technique provides little protection. A better option? Boarding up your windows or having permanent storm shutters installed.

Y: Yearly

Over one-third of deaths in home fires occur in residences without working smoke alarms. Change the batteries on your smoke or carbon monoxide detectors yearly, and check that they work once a month.

Z: Zombie apocalypse

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control started a tongue-in-cheek campaign advising the public on how to prepare for an invasion of the undead. Among their recommendations is picking a gathering spot for family outside your home, which is also helpful in the case of an evacuation for a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Sources: ADT, American Institute of Physics, American Red Cross, Angi, Axis Communications, Centers for Disease Control, Daily Mail, Family Survival Planning, Geico, Insurance Information Institute, International Risk Management Institute, Kaspersky Labs, National Flood Insurance Program, National Weather Service, Safewise, U.S. Fire Administration

Angi editor Emily Udell also contributed to this article.

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