National Cyber Security Awareness Month!

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month! Learning how to identify online fraud and understanding how fraudulent activity happens, helps with prevention. Here are some past blog posts with information on identity theft and prevention.

Ways to Practice Fire Prevention Around The Home

Fire Prevention Week will be held in the U.S. this year between October 9 and October 15. This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.”

That’s just one of many safety tips you can practice around your home. Here are more to consider to protect you and your loved ones:

  • Create a fire escape plan at home and share it with all family members, then practice the plan at least twice a year.
  • If a fire occurs in your home, get out, stay out and call for help.
  • When frying, grilling, baking, or broiling food, stay in the kitchen. If you must leave the kitchen, turn off the stove or oven.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire, such as towels, clothing, or plastic, away from the stove.
  • Never use a grill, camp stove, generator, or other gasoline, natural gas, charcoal, or propane-burning device inside a home, garage, or any partially enclosed area.
  • Turn off portable heaters when you go to sleep or leave a room.
  • Teach household members to “stop, drop, and roll” if their clothes should catch on fire.
  • Use fire extinguishers only if the fire is confined to a small area and is not spreading, and the room is not filled with smoke.
  • Remember the word PASS when using a fire extinguisher:
    • Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you.
    • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
    • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
  • Decide where your family members should meet outside should a fire occur in your home.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your house, especially inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once a month. If they aren’t working, replace the batteries and re-test them.
  • If a carbon monoxide alarm is activated, move quickly to an open window or door or an area where there is fresh air.
  • Teach children the purpose of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and let them know what they sound like.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children and teach them the dangers of both.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, stoves, and space heaters.

Although Fire Prevention Week is coming up, it’s best to practice fire safety throughout the year.

Get Set For Winter With These Fall Home Projects

As sure as the leaves will fall from the trees, there will be projects and chores to do around the home during autumn months.

It could be winterizing outdoor plumbing, or sealing cracks in driveways. Maybe it’s prepping the yard for cold weather.

If you haven’t already started a “to-do list”, here’s a little help:

  • Check your driveway for holes and cracks. If you find any, clean them out and plug the crevices with driveway filler, then apply a commercial sealant.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. This handy device allows you to automatically lower the household temperature when you’re away or asleep and boost it just before you get home or get up in the morning, thereby saving on heating bills.
  • Create an upward draft and redistribute warm air from the ceiling by reversing the direction of a ceiling fan. And if you use humidifiers in the fall and winter, clean the water tanks regularly to prevent bacteria and spores from growing in them.
  • Caulk around windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping your home.This is another high-heating-bill buster, and reduces the risk of water getting into crevices and freezing, which could result in cracks and mold. You may also want to invest in new energy-efficient windows and doors if the ones in your house have seen better days.
  • Clean and repair, if needed, deck and porch furniture before storing it away for the winter. The same goes for barbeque equipment.
  • Get rid of blistering or peeling paint on exterior walls and sides. Left untreated, this can cause deterioration that results in expensive repairs later on.And consider applying a fresh coat of paint or sealer on any interior surface that could come in contact with snow, such as wood floors or stairs.
  • Winterize exterior plumbing such as faucets and sprinkler systems to prevent freezing and bursting.
  • Clear out gutters and downspouts of debris, such as leaves and sticks. This will help prevent ice dams from forming. And remember to repair any damaged joints and tighten brackets.
  • Have your home’s roof inspected for leaks or other damage and make necessary repairs. The last thing you want is to have snow seeping into your home through holes or cracks in the roof.
  • Aerate your lawn and garden beds, rake up leaves, and fertilize and winterize trees, shrubs and grass to prepare them for colder temperatures.
  • Prep your heating system in advance of use by having it checked by a licensed heating professional. Do you have a fireplace or wood stove? Inspect them, too, to ensure they’re ready to go when the cold weather sets in. This includes checking for creosote buildup caused by burning wood; clearing any chimney blockages (such as those caused by squirrel or bird nests); repairing faulty dampers, masonry or brickwork; and fixing or replacing damaged chimney caps.

Let Technology Help Track Down College Textbooks

As if college isn’t challenging enough, students are faced with the daunting task of finding textbooks that aren’t going to cost them an arm and a leg. Fortunately, technology is helping give them an upper hand.

Online websites offer various options, ranging from buying new, used or even renting, and selecting print, digital or audio forms of textbooks. Students typically can end up paying a fraction of the cost compared to getting books at the on-campus bookstore. Among the more popular sites are textbooks.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!; chegg.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!; ecampus.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!; valorebooks.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!; amazon.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!; half.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!(an eBay company).

In addition, there are search engines that allow you to compare book prices on different sites, such as bookfinder.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon! and campusbooks.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!.

What’s more, free textbooks are available through university libraries, online book exchanges, and Project Gutenberg, the oldest digital library in the world that offers approximately 50,000 e-books. Note, however, that many free textbooks are limited to classic literature.

And then there’s always the old standby – forming a textbook-sharing group with other students, especially those who may be in the same classes you’re enrolled in. This may require studying together from time to time, but it could be a real cost-saver in the long run.

If you decide that online is the way to go, stop by the on-campus bookstore first and locate the books you’ll need. Then jot down the following information: author’s name, the book’s price, the name and volume/edition, and the book’s International Standard Book Number (ISBN), found on or near the barcode on the back of book. Use this information to locate books online.

Before making any textbook transaction, pay close attention to the site’s terms and conditions, such as return policies, money-back guarantee, and whether free shipping is offered both on purchases and returns (that is, unless, you’re buying or renting e-books.)

And compare the cost of buying new versus used, as well as renting. You may be surprised at the difference. If you decide to rent, remember to keep track of the book’s rental expiration date; otherwise you could end up inadvertently buying the book instead. Note: some colleges and universities offer book rental services, so don’t overlook this option.

Prepare Now For The Unexpected

“Save for a rainy day” has been a phrase that’s been around a long time. And it applies just as much now as it did years ago.

That’s because it’s always a good practice to set aside money for unforeseen circumstances that crop up in life. A rainy day fund provides for financial as well as mental peace of mind because you know the money’s there in time of need.

Whether it’s a loss of employment, a medical ailment, an unplanned home repair or some other emergency, having a monetary cushion in place can help overcome unexpected obstacles. Experts advise having three months of savings available for such circumstances.

But even so, a recent survey by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) revealed that only about 50 percent of Americans indicated they could have $2,000 available for an emergency in the next month. (FINRA is an independent, not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors by making sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly.)

If you’re among those who don’t have a rainy day fund, it’s never too late to start one. Here are some ways to do that:

Get a handle on your monthly bills. Knowing where you money is going is the first step to figuring out what you can afford to set aside for a rainy day fund. If you find yourself struggling to find a few extra bucks to save each month, then consider cutting some expenses, such as going out to dinner two or three times a week or buying lunch every workday.

Save your change. At the end of each day, place the coins in a piggy bank or another container and watch the money add up right before your eyes. Better yet, set aside unspent dollar bills (or even 5 dollar bills!) to build up your kitty even faster.

Turn unwanted items into cash. It could be anything from pieces of furniture to outgrown clothing. Take it to a consignment shop, hold a yard sale, or sell it online.

Ditch a costly habit. It could be cigarettes, or compulsive online shopping. The savings you could reap could be staggering.

If you get a raise at work, don’t spend it. Put it in a rainy day fund instead. And if you pay off a long-standing bill such as a car loan, still set aside at least a portion of that money each month for the fund, too.

Even if it takes several months to accomplish your goal, it will be worth it in the long run when an emergency arises.

Check Out This Labor Day Quiz!

In the spirit of Labor Day, here’s a chance to put the “strongest muscle” in your body to work – the brain.

Take this true/false quiz to see how much you know about the end-of-summer holiday:

The first Labor Day parade in U.S. history was held September 5, 1882, by 10,000 workers in New York City.

True. Unions rose to prominence in the 18th century, and as they gained more strength and recognition, they started organizing rallies, strikes, and other activities. The New York City Parade was one of them.

Congress declared Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894.

True. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the declaration was prompted by developments surrounding the Pullman Palace Car Company. On May 11, 1894, company employees went on strike in Chicago to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. Six weeks later, a boycott of all Pullman railway cars was called for by the American Railroad Union, which tied up railroad traffic around the country.

In response, the federal government ordered troops to Chicago, sparking riots that resulted in the deaths of more than 12 workers. To calm the nation and heal the strife with union workers, Congress passed an act in late June of that year making Labor Day a legal holiday. The first Monday in September was chosen as the official date for the annual celebration.

Massachusetts was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday.

False. It was actually Oregon that made that move in 1887.

Labor Day originated in Canada.

True. According to historians, Labor Day began in Toronto in 1872 as a demonstration demanding equal rights for workers. The movement quickly spread south to the United States.

The average American worker in the late 1800s put in 6-hour work days and only toiled for 4 days a week.

False. On the contrary, workers averaged 12-hour days and were on the job 7 days a week. What’s more, children as young as 5 to 6 years old worked in factories and mines.

The Adamms Family Act firmly established the 8-hour work day.

False. It was actually the Adamson Act in 1916 that became the first federal law to regulate hours of workers in private companies.

There are more Americans who are members of unions today than ever before.

False. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 14.8 million union workers in 2015. That compares to 17.7 union workers in 1983, which was the first year for which comparable data was available.

Labor Day is celebrated in much of the world on May 1.

True. More than 80 countries around the globe look on Labor Day as synonymous or linked with International Workers’ Day, which occurs on May 1.

Labor Day marks the official end of summer.

False. The first day of fall is the autumnal equinox, which is usually Sept. 21.

Labor Day is the unofficial end of hot dog season.

True. That’s according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, which says that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans gulp down an incredible 7 billion hot dogs.

If you answered at least half of these correctly, treat yourself to a hot dog! And have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day holiday.