Grilling Season and the Risk of More Fires U.S. Home Fires Involving Grills

According to reports put out by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the amount of home structure and outdoor fires involving grills (which include hibachis or barbecues) has been on the rise. Since the increase, it goes hand and hand that the direct property damage caused by fires involving grills is also on the rise. If we look at reports covering 2007 to 2011 and compare them to reports covering 2014 to 2018, you will notice that the amount of direct property damages have increased by $53 million dollars annually.

During 2014 to 2018, the US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 10,600 home structure and outdoor fires involving grills each year. These fires caused an average of 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $149 million in direct property damage annually.

During 2007-2011, the US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 8,800 home1 fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year. These fires caused an average of of 10 civilian deaths, 140 reported civilian injuries, $96 million in direct property damage.

While nearly half of the people who grill do it year-round, July is the peak month for grill fires followed by May, June and August. Close to half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns. In many grill fires, the grill had not been cleaned. To prevent fires, keep the grill clean. Leaks or breaks were also a factor in reported grill fires. In some cases, Ignition of something that could catch fire was too close to the grill or home structure fires were a result of the grill being too close to the house. Position the grill away from the home and from other things that can burn. It’s also good advice to have a fire-extinguished within reaching distance at all time. Cooking requires attention, and barbecuing is no exception.

Bon appetit, but be sure to do it safely.

Protecting Yourself on The Job Site During Flu Season

Here are a few tips to consider for protecting yourself and others while working on the job site during flu season. These tips don’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but they do reduce your chances and create a healthier work environment for everyone.

Start practicing these things regularly year-round for them to become routine, turn into good habits, and best practices for a healthier work environment. If you only do these things when you just learn about a flu outbreak, it might already be too late.

The goal is to help reduce interruptions to the work place and in doing so, you will be looking out for the well-being of other employees and your community (by doing your part in preventing further spread of the flu / virus).

While working onsite, consider and practice the following:

Stay home if you are sick and communicate your status.
Stay home if you are sick. Talk with your doctor about things you should be monitoring and discuss a reasonable date to return to work. Make sure you are communicating your current situation and your progress with your employee so that they can schedule projects appropriately. Review your sick leave policies from your employer and your state to reduce your fear of any reprisals. While home, limit your interactions with your roommate(s), family members, etc. Make sure you sanitize common areas in hopes of containing the flu / virus and avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.

Do not share tools.
If it is necessary to share tools, wipe them down with a disinfectant wipe before handing them back. If you use a rag and alcohol to rub things down, make sure the rag has different colors on each side or mark one side to indicate a clean side to touch and a dirty side to wipe. After each day, the rag should be put aside to wash and a new rag used the following day.

Avoid job site water coolers.
Some public and private facilities have drinking fountains that also offer water bottle fill up stations. The water bottle fill up station has a sensor that detects your water bottle and starts pouring water. You don’t touch anything which reduces the spread of germs.

The only way to get water from a work site water cooler is by touching the push button to release water. Think about how many different crews can be working on a job site using that cooler and touching the release button. Bring your own water supply and plenty of it each day.

Leave doors open.
If possible, leave doors open to reduce touching the door knobs. This isn’t always possible so wiping down the handles throughout the day and washing your hands with either soap and water or a good hand sanitize will help.

Where gloves and face masks.
You may already be using cloves and face masks for safety reasons, but inspect them regularly for wear and tears. Replace them as soon as they need to be replaced and consider upgrading to stronger gloves and face masks.

Office workers.
Dedicate one office staff member to answer phone calls, collect mail, etc. and if possible, other staff members work from home (clean /disinfect the office and home office regularly).

Have supplies delivered rather than picking them up. Use other forms of payment rather than cash, such as; credit card, smart phone payment apps, etc.

Take the stairs when possible and avoid elevators. Even though most elevators are ventilated, a cough can spread fast especially in a small closed space. You also want to reduce touching common buttons to call for the elevator and select your floor.

Other Considerations
Get up to date information from reliable sources like the CDC and your state health department. Share useful information and tips and make sure you are not communicating wrong information.

A touchy subject is vaccinations, but something to consider.

Consider how you should be greeting people (smile, hand wave, elbow bump, fist bump, handshakes, hug, kiss, etc).

Try not to stand to close to people during conversation and cough into your elbows.

Wash your hands regularly throughout the day with soap and water or a good hand sanitize product.

Stay hydrated, preferably with water.

Nearly 40% of Christmas Tree Home Fires Occur in January

The gifts have been opened, the ornaments are starting to sag, and the fallen pine needles are multiplying daily. These are clear signs that it’s time to remove the Christmas tree and other holiday decorations from your home. The longer they’re in your home, the more they dry out, making them a significant fire hazard.

NFPA statistics show that nearly 40 percent of home fires that begin with Christmas trees occur in January. Although these fires aren’t common, when they do occur, they’re more likely to be serious. On average, one of every 40 reported home structure Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, as compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home structure fires.

While many people choose to keep their Christmas trees and holiday decorations up for a few weeks after the holidays, the continued use of seasonal lighting and dried out trees after the holidays presents increased fire risks.

Schools Need to be on Alert (and be Alerted) as Vaping Reaches Three Million Students – Part III

Unfortunately, this is where some schools have blurred the line between security and invasion of privacy. Recently an Alabama principal made headlines after he ordered the removal of the doors in several of his school’s bathroom stalls. In that Alabama case, the doors were put back in one week later after parents issued concerns about their children’s privacy. In another effort, a school district in Texas required students to roll up their sleeves when entering school in an attempt to prevent them from hiding e-cigarettes. Neither action was particularly popular with patents, but it shows the extremes schools are going through to stem the rising tide. But there are better alternatives.

Advancements in technology have given security companies the ability to integrate these restroom vape detectors so that alerts for any infractions can be sent in real time to the appropriate parties’ phone and emails. It can also be integrated into the school’s Security/Video systems. In addition, the technology exists to integrate with cameras outside the restrooms, so as to monitor who enters and leaves correspondent to when the infractions occur. This means that if Larry and Billy walk out of the bathroom minutes after the vaping detector signals a time-stamped message to the principal’s email, you can be pretty sure that they’re doing something that they’re not supposed to be doing. Installers can also adjust and maximize the settings for the room’s environment, thus removing false alarms that other sensors might get from body and disinfectant sprays. Integration can also be set up to pinpoint where the infraction occurs, so alerts are sent to a teacher on the 2nd floor if there is an infraction in the 2nd floor bathroom, etc. The device can also be wired into a PoE-enabled network. This is important because it makes it easier to connect to an existing network, with less work required.

There’s no denying that schools are embracing this technology as the ill-effects of vaping become more and more prominent in the news. And that’s without factoring in that along with the obvious health risks, vaping has also caused additional problems as e-cigarettes are being flushed down toilets, resulting in school having to dole out thousands of dollars in custodial and plumbing fees. But what price-tag do we place on the health and safety of our most precious cargo. Once a student walks through the front door, his well-being is in the hands of a dedicated staff, dedicated to not only educate, but to protect.

More and more schools are investing heavily in placing vape detectors in their restroom, with reports of one Ohio school district doling out over $60,000 to put vape detectors in their bathrooms. Plus, there are additional costs for programming, integration, etc. So it makes sense that schools should seek out trained installers to maximize their return with real-time communications.


Ways to track vaping in school restrooms has increased dramatically over the years as more and more companies are creating sophisticated vaping detectors, some that even have the capabilities to detect loud noises, which can be an indication of bullying, breaking glass, and other possible violent or anti-social behavior.

New York’s Plainedge High School was among the first to install new bathroom vape sensors that can detect e-cigarette. Few students have been caught so far, but officials say that isn’t a sign of failure “The truth of the matter is the kids see it, they know what it is and it in itself is a deterrent,” said Edward Salina, superintendent of Plainedge Public Schools.

“We’ve seen significant increases across the student body,” said Robert Keuther, principal at Marshfield High School on the south shore of Massachusetts. “This is not something specific to one group of kids. It’s across all of my grades, nine to 12. It’s all students.”

Taking the short route between detection and prevention

But as a school administrator, when it comes to having vaping detectors in bathrooms you have to take the next logical step, which is to have the technology available to not only detect but do what needs to be done to also prevent (i.e. catch the perpetrators). And to that end, many security companies are now working with schools and vape detection manufacturers that are making these detection devices available to schools throughout the country.

These vaping sensors can be installed in bathrooms where it will detect vapor from electronic cigarettes in real time, including the detection of THC oil, a chemical found in both e-cigarettes and marijuana. Still, detection is only as useful as the ability to monitor that detection.

But how do you monitor something in an area where cameras are not permitted?

Watch for Part 3 of our Vaping Blog

Schools Need to be on Alert (and be Alerted) as Vaping Reaches Three Million Students

For years manufacturers have been finding ways to make products more appealing to kids, either by design or through the senses (i.e. smell, taste, etc.). We now have grape-flavored pediatric cold medicine and vitamins that look like Gummy Bears. So it makes perfect sense that we also now have odors that smell like cool mint or mango drifting from the student bathrooms.

The 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 11.7% of high school students and 3.3% of middle school students used e-cigarettes. And in many instances, the restrooms in America’s high schools and middle schools, where by law video cameras are not allowed, have become a popular place to enjoy the puff of the day as this epidemic continues to grow.

The National Education Association estimates that up to three million students are using vaping products, many utilizing the JUUL brand, which not only smells and tastes good, but also looks like a really cool computer flash drive that can be charged in a USB port, with each JUUL cartridge containing roughly the same amount of highly-addictive nicotine as 20 cigarettes.

“It’s happening in the hallways, it’s happening in the bathrooms, we even had a kid a couple of years ago vaping in the classroom,” says Cam Traut, a school nurse at Libertyville High School in the Chicago suburbs and a National Association of School Nurses board member. “I get the sense that students think its safe,” says Traut. “The marketing or advertising was, ‘oh, this is a much healthier version of traditional, tobacco cigarettes,’ so the kids have focused on that ‘healthier’ component. And it’s taken off like wildfire.

“As a school, we’re trying to provide some education to the kids so that they understand the health risks they’re taking, and we’re also educating our staff on what to look for… but it’s an uphill battle, ” says Traut.

Those flavors are attractive to kids, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics. Meanwhile, 15- to-17-year-olds are more than 16 times more likely to be JUUL users than 25- to 34-year-olds, according to the Truth Initiative, a non-profit public health organization that was established 20 years ago as part of a settlement between tobacco companies and states. The chart below tells more of the story.

Credit: National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017)

The device’s maker says it’s intended only for adults trying to quit smoking, that its website aims to block underage customers, and the company supports legislation to raise the minimum age for vaping products to 21 nationwide. But as JUUL and the FDA play the “he-said, she-said” game, young people are getting sick and, in many instances, dying.

So how do we track vaping in schools?

Watch for Part 2 of our Vaping Blog.

The Secret Service Could Learn from Alarm and Security Professionals

When a man successfully climbed over a fence and then ran directly inside our nations most secure house unimpeded.

According to an article in Security Sales & Integration magazine, a man claiming to be an Iraq War veteran successfully climbed over the fence and then ran directly inside the White House unimpeded, simply defies the criticality regarding foreseeability of this threat. It should have been immediately intercepted and neutralized using advanced electronic security, physical security and law enforcement tactics.

The author asks, “Shouldn’t the White House doors have automatically locked, assuming magnetic locks were in place, as soon as alarms signaled a breach of the fence and/or a breach on the property itself? And who has been charged with the duty to service, maintain and if required, replace outdated security system technologies which are no longer reliably operating at the White House?”

To read the entire article, click here!


My grandfathers were small business owners / entrepreneurs and prime examples of the pursuit of the American Dream. My father, my biggest influence, at a very early age began his own electrical contracting company. Following in my father’s footsteps I proceeded to get an electrical engineering degree. Being part of a family tradition where much of the dinner talk regularly revolved around business, I developed a passion and have become a lifelong student of business. I chose a career in electrical distribution and for nearly 40 years I have been operating companies that support small contractors.

I launched the Contractors Business Blog as a space where I can share tips, tricks, ideas, and helpful articles I come across in my travels, that are not necessarily industry or technically specific, but may help make your business or venture successful. I may also, from time to time, share experiences or observations regarding success stories or struggles of contractors that I have witnessed or experienced directly. I hope you find this information useful and I welcome your feedback.

Enjoy the Read!

Security Game Changers

Security’s most recent game changers are system integration and Web-based applications. Beside the details embedded in much emerging technology, security leaders should keep a sharp eye on “game changers.”

Just yesterday, the game changer was the concept of an application or “app” store pioneered by Apple and its iPhone. These apps extend the use of a smart device and allowed users to do more with less hardware. It pushed the security professions forward as security products integrated with smart phones and other smart devices.

When internet protocol or IP was a new concept we all had to adapt to security video, access control, communications and power being delivered over Ethernet. It change things. Then, came the introduction of virtualization. Ethernet and virtualization were ways to deliver the same product in a faster, more reliable, and overall better way and it brought us to places we have not been before.

Security products that are game changers enhance the value of the work that we do which typically leads to increased sales. It opens doors and allows us the ability to impress our existing customers and create new business relationships, specifically with key stakeholders.

You don’t have to change the way you do things for each game changing moment, but not acknowledging the benefits of them can stunt your business.