Tag Archives: home safety

This smart doorbell lets you video chat with visitors from your phone


Ever ignored the doorbell because you didn’t know who was there or weren’t expecting any visitors? Now thanks to a Chicago-based company, you can see who is at your doorstep and even talk to them from your phone.

Smart video doorbell and motion detector, Xchime, is app-enabled and allows users to see anyone at their door from virtually anywhere. Launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo last week, the innovative doorbell includes a 1080P HD camera with night vision, a smart light and a convenient garage door opener.


Photo: Xchime/Facebook

Developed by Chicago’s Wireless Input Technology Inc., Xchime is a small, weather-resistant gadget made with stainless steel. Using their phones, Xchime users can have live video chats with visitors, like telling the mailman where to leave a package if you’re not home. Also, visitors can leave  recorded video messages, which can be viewed later on the app.

Xchime also includes features intended to help secure homes. The doorbell is built with a discrete security camera and, whenever motion is detected within a 140 degree field of view, users will be notified through the app. Xchime also has Integrated smart light technology. When motion is detected, the doorbell’s light will turn on automatically in an effort to deter unwanted visitors.

As an add-on accessory, users can purchase a garage door opener kit allowing them to open and close their garage with a push of a button from Xchime’s app. The doorbell retails at $129 USD and the first shipment is scheduled for August 2017.

Source: BuzzBuzz News – 

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What it’s like to live in women’s-only housing in NYC

You get a housekeeper, but you can’t bring boys over

Though apartment buildings designed for professional women—think the Barbizon Hotel on the Upper East Side, or the Martha Washington Hotel on Park Avenue—are largely a thing of the past, some of these women-only enclaves still exist in Manhattan. One of these is the Webster Apartments on West 34th Street, and the New York Times is ON IT.

Specifically, they recently ran a profile of a 24-year-old resident of the building who ticks basically all the boxes you’d expect from someone who lives in what is basically a glorified dorm. She’s a recent New York City transplant (check) who works in fashion (check) and doesn’t mind the living situation because she lived in sorority houses in college (check). Her room, which measures just 13 feet by 8 feet, is decorated with twinkly lights (check), a copy of The Devil Wears Prada (check check), and a poster of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (checkcheckcheck). “I had to live in Manhattan,” she told the Times. “I was so excited when I went to get my license and it said New York, New York.” (Oh, honey.)

But what’s really interesting to us, as professional real estate gawkers, are the specifics of this particular living arrangement, which isn’t so different from the ones offered at trendy “co-living” situations like WeLive or Common—but without the cool start-up factor, and with far more stringent rules.

Residents at the Webster Apartments get their own rooms, but have shared bathrooms—five or six to a floor, to accommodate 25 to 30 women (each room also has its own private sink). According to the Times, rents in the building go from $1,000 to $1,800, and are determined by a sliding scale “pegged to the resident’s income.” Residents must also be employed, “at least 35 hours a week or have an internship or fellowship of at least 28 hours a week,” with a yearly between $30,000 to $85,000.

What do you get for that price? Actually, quite a lot: Housekeeping, two meals a day, plenty of common spaces (including a TV room and a library), and per the Times, “social events, most with an educational or professional bent”—resume workshops, mixers, and the like. (The resident they profiled mentions a painting workshop, but there are also yoga classes and movie nights, among other things.)

When you compare the cost of living there to something like WeLive—where a studio will soon cost $3,050 (albeit with a private bathroom)—it may seem like a pretty decent deal, particularly if you’re new to the city or not inclined to live with strangers. There is still a rule that men aren’t allowed into rooms—and given that these sorts of boardinghouses came from a general fear of women’s well-being in early-20th-century New York City, it’s not surprising that it exists, though that doesn’t make it any less weird in modern-day New York City. (Though the building apparently has “beau rooms” that are “uniquely decorated recalling ‘Legends and Lotharios.’” where you can take a, well, beaus.)

But the Webster’s website notes that it’s been filled to capacity since it opened in 1923, so clearly there’s a demand for this sort of housing—even if the audience for it is limited. And the resident the Times spoke with, at least, is happy with her situation—especially considering it’s temporary, since the Webster has a five-year limit for residents. “Even when my mom came to visit me last month and stayed on a cot in my room, she was like, ‘I don’t want to go back home!’” Isn’t that sweet.


Source: Curbed New York – BY DEC 9, 2016

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How to Investigate the Neighborhood Where You Want to Live

You’ve gone to the open house. You’ve had a private showing. You’ve read the disclosures. You’ve decided this is the house for you, and you’re ready to make an offer.

Before you take that step, though, you should fully check out the neighborhood. After all, this is where you’re going to live for years. Is there something you don’t know about that could negatively affect the resale value later? Is there a neighbor who comes roaring home late at night on a muffler-free motorcycle? Is the next-door neighbor operating a day care for pre-schoolers?

Given the high stakes of homeownership, it pays to do your homework before making an offer. For example, a potential buyer was ready to sign on the dotted line for a home in San Francisco, a city famous for its microclimates. The buyer had only been to the home during the day, when it was sunny and warm. On his real estate agent’s advice, the buyer returned at night — to find the house blanketed by cold, windy fog. He continued his home search elsewhere, relieved he hadn’t unknowingly bought into the city’s “fog and wind belt.”

Here are five ways to investigate a neighborhood before you buy.

1. Talk to the neighbors

Without being intrusive, look for an opportunity to chat with your potential neighbors. What’s their opinion of the block and the neighborhood? Do they know of any problem neighbors? Are they aware of any recent car or home break-ins? Is anyone planning a big remodel that could impact other homes or their values? Do they know of someone on the block who might be getting ready to sell? An even more desirable home could be coming on the market.

2. Visit day and night, weekday and weekend

As the San Francisco example shows, don’t just visit the house during the day. Check it out at night to get a sense of what’s going on in the neighborhood after hours. Is it noisy or calm? Visit on the weekend and early morning, too. The more times of day you go, the more chances you’ll have to get the feel for the neighborhood.

3. Check out the local newspaper and the neighborhood blog

Some neighborhoods still have their own newspapers. If there’s one published for the neighborhood you’re considering, check it out for local stories. Pay particular attention to the “police blotter,” which typically lists crimes reported in the area. Also, some neighborhoods have blogs where locals ask for tips and advice, or post issues or concerns affecting the neighborhood. A Google search should help you find out whether there’s a blog for the neighborhood you’re considering.

4. Get an app

Some smartphone apps, such as CrimeReports for iPhone, provide information about crime based on your location or address. Among the problems you may see displayed on a map are noise nuisances, sex offenders and vehicle break-ins. The CrimeReports app gives you some specifics, such as when and where each incident occurred.

Zillow’s real estate apps allow you to see estimates of properties on the block. They also allow you to search recent sales or see rentals, a good indication of whether your neighbors are renters or homeowners.

5. Google the street address

If you Google the home’s street address, you might be amazed at what you find. You might, for instance, discover a nearby home-based business with employees (which could reduce street parking spaces). Using Google’s Street View, where photos can be months if not years old, you might discover that the ground-floor bedroom window once had bars on it.

Be a sleuth before the sale

The Internet is an amazing resource of information. Too often, though, potential home buyers don’t fully use it to find out everything they can before entering into a contract on a home. As soon as you’ve identified a home you want to buy, get online and do your homework. You might be pleasantly — or unpleasantly — surprised by what you learn.

Source: Zillow.com  ON 16 AUG 2013

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Mike Holmes: Why winter is a prime season for house fires, and how to prevent them

Fire Prevention Week runs from Oct. 4 to 10 and is a good reminder to have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, including inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas, and to test them monthly.

It’s that time of year again — no, I’m not talking about fall or Thanksgiving, I’m talking about Fire Prevention Week, which runs Oct. 4 to 10.

Every year, Fire Prevention Week falls on the week in which Oct. 9 lands, to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which, unfortunately, took the lives of more than 250 people and left another 100,000 homeless. It’s a reminder to all of us that a house fire can happen to anyone, so we must take the proper steps to prevent it, and then keep our families safe in case it does.

Proper homebuilding has a lot to do with fire prevention.

For example, firewalls help stop flames from spreading between semi-detached and townhouses; there can only be a certain amount of glass on either side of a house, depending on how close it is to the property line. Again, this is to help stop the spread of flames.

There’s also fire-resistant insulation (which I recommend installing on all your exterior walls) and fire-resistant intumescent paint that can be applied to sheathing and framing. It may not stop a fire from starting, but it will give you more time to escape and it will minimize damage to your home.

But as a homeowner, you have to keep on top of things, too.

The No. 1 priority: Have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. (About a quarter of all house fires start in the bedroom.) And test them! You should test your smoke alarms every month — no exceptions — and change the batteries twice a year. I do it when the clocks change; that’s easy to remember.

I’ve heard of some people who actually remove the batteries from their smoke alarms, or disconnect them — this is a big, big no-no. In one case, a few days after a family disabled their alarms (because they kept going off) a fire broke out in the home and the couple lost their three-year-old son.

Smoke alarms save lives. It’s that simple. In fact, they can cut the risk of dying in a house fire by about half — that’s huge!

But when was the last time you had a licensed electrical contractor come and take a look at your home’s wiring?

Electrical fires are more common than you think. And now with winter approaching, we’ll be using our heating systems and lighting more.

You have to make sure your home’s electrical system can safely handle the extra load, because it’s way too easy for bad wiring to cause an electrical fire. In fact, most home fires are caused by poorly maintained electrical and heating/cooling systems. So get them checked by the right pros!

Have your home’s electrical system checked at least every four years, and if you bought a house that’s 15 years old or older, bring in a licensed electrical contractor as soon as possible, especially if the basement is finished. Too many homeowners think they can do their own electrical, and unfortunately, many of them have done. How do you know if everything is up to code? If there’s knob-and-tube wiring? Or aluminum wiring mixed with copper? Or if the person who did the work knew what they were doing?

Have a licensed electrical contractor do an audit of the entire house. They’ll make sure all the electrical work is up to code and that all the connections are tight.

Fire prevention is not something you can put off, or that you can get around to doing when you have the time. Because the truth is, we don’t know when a fire can start in a home, and then it’s too late.

Keep safe, make it right and please, folks, make sure all your smoke alarms are working … today!

Source: National Post Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | October 3, 2015 | Last Updated: Oct 3 10:37 AM ETWatch Mike in his new series, Home Free, on HGTV. For more information, visit makeitright.ca.

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Toppled TVs causing serious injuries – and deaths – in young kids: study

There’s an often unrecognized hazard lurking in most Canadian homes that poses a potentially deadly threat to young children — the big-screen TV.

Those top-heavy, flat-screen televisions can topple over onto children, crush their tiny bodies and in the worst-case scenario, fatally cave in their skulls, researchers say.

“The kids who are at the biggest risk are toddlers, so one- to three-year-olds,” said Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital.

“They’re occurring in older kids as well, but these injuries can be extremely severe in the younger kids — and they can be fatal.”

In a review of 29 studies from seven countries published Tuesday in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Cusimano and co-author Nadine Parker found that tens of thousands of children have been harmed by falling TVs, an occurrence that is becoming increasingly common.

In the U.S., for instance, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 19,200 TV-related injuries from 2008 to 2010, up from 16,500 between 2006 and 2008.

The Toronto researchers determined that about 85 per cent of these injuries occurred in the home and more than three-quarters were not witnessed by a parent or caregiver.

“TVs are often placed on unstable bases, placed on high furniture like dressers, which aren’t designed for TVs, or (are) not properly secured to the wall,” said Cusimano.

“Meanwhile, parents are getting busier and busier and don’t have as much time to supervise children, so it’s not surprising that these injuries are getting reported more often.”

He said accidents often happen when toddlers climb up on a piece of furniture that holds the TV. Somewhat older children may run into the furniture while horsing around and cause the television to fall on them.

“They’re not being secured properly, they’re not being used on the proper furniture,” Cusimano said of big-screen TVs, which have become increasingly larger and less expensive over time.

“I heard of one case where (the family) had it on top of an aquarium, and the TV came down and crushed the child,” he said. “The child died.”

A 2005 study led by pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. James Drake at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto showed 18 children, aged 12 months to 10 years old, had been treated for a range of injuries due to falling TVs between 1992 and 2005. Sixteen of them had skull fractures.

Some of the children were left with short- and long-term symptoms, from neurological deficits causing severe disability to hearing loss and facial paralysis.

One two-year-old, who was treated at Sick Kids following submission of the study to the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, died after an 81-centimetre (32-inch) TV fell off its stand and fractured the child’s skull.

“It’s often like a crush injury,” Drake said in an interview Monday. “So it’s not what we would call a high-velocity head injury like you would have in a car accident. This is relatively low-velocity, but the TVs are very heavy, so they sort of crush the skull.

“So that causes these fractures and often injures the nerves at the base of the skull that control the face and the eyes and the hearing. Many recover, but some of them are left with a permanent deficit.”

According to the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP), Sick Kids treated 33 children who had been injured by falling TVs between 2011 and 2013. Twelve of the children were admitted, 16 had head injuries and 18 had fractures, including skull fractures.

For privacy reasons, the hospital does not reveal the number of deaths, but a spokeswoman said there were “under five.”

“It’s a totally preventable trauma,” agreed Drake,” and families need to be vigilant and tether their TVs so they can’t possibly fall over. And children watching TV do need to be monitored.”

Cusimano said parents, grandparents and other caregivers can take steps to prevent this needless injury:

— Avoid placing toys or remotes on top of the TV.

— Create a restricted play area around the television.

— Use a proper TV stand or console; don’t place it on top of a high piece of furniture.

— Position the TV back from the edge of where it’s placed.

— Attach the TV to the wall to prevent it from falling.


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