Avoiding Identity Theft

We are confronted with the risk of identity theft every day. From shopping at the local grocery store, buying something online or simply browsing the internet, cyber hackers are trying to steal your financial information. The time, effort and money necessary to resolve this type of theft can be overwhelming.

Statistics show that most of us will have to deal with the consequences of identity theft at least once and probably multiple times. The cost for our modern day conveniences can be very high, if we are not careful. Below are suggestions to help you minimize these risks.

How can I protect my identity?

At Home:

  • Keep your financial records, Social Security and Medicare cards in a safe place.
  • Shred papers that have your personal or medical information.
  • Take mail out of mailbox as soon as you can and have your mail picked-up when out of town.

As you do business:

  • Only give your Social Security number if you must. Ask if you can use another forms of ID.
  • Do not give your personal information to anyone who calls or emails you.

On the computer:

  • Use passwords that are not easy to guess. Use numbers and symbols whenever possible.
  • Do not respond to emails or other messages that ask for your personal information.
  • Do not put personal information on a computer in a public place, like Starbucks or the library.

How will I know if someone steals my identity?

Read your bills and account statements. Watch for the following:

  • Things you did not buy.
  • Withdrawals you did not make.
  • A change of your address that you did not expect.
  • Bills that stop coming.
  • Look at medical statements for charges you do not recognize.

Periodically review a copy of your credit report. You can get one free credit report every year from each credit reporting company (as required by law). To order: Call the Annual Credit Report hotline at 877-322-8228.

  • Answer questions from the recorded system. You will have to give your address, Social Security number and birth date.
  • Choose to only show the last four digits of your Social Security number (it is safer than showing the whole number).
  • Choose which credit reporting company you want a report from (you can receive one free report from each company every year).

Report identity theft to the special Financial Investigations Unit of the Dallas Police Department by completing an “Identity Theft” form online or call 214-671-3543 during regular business hours.

 

 

Published on March 12, 2016

Safety Alert

In last month’s newsletter, there was a brief message about a gas leak at a home on Pavillion. In the last few weeks there has been another serious leak. This one occurred in the main gas line under the street at Pavillion. This is cause for great concern in our neighborhood. The lines were installed when the development was new in the 1980’s. That’s more than 35 years ago, and we are now confronted with aging pipelines. It is very important that you be aware of the signs of leaks and take action immediately if you suspect a leak. Following are some safety tips on detecting natural gas leaks.

Signs of Natural Gas Leak

  • “Rotten egg” smell
  • Dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area
  • Dirt or dust blowing from a hole in the ground
  • Bubbling in wet or flooded areas
  • Blowing or hissing sound
  • Flames, if a leak has ignited

Gas in transmission pipelines does not have odorant added, so signs of a pipeline leak may include all of the above except the rotten egg odor.

If you suspect a natural gas leak:

  • Call Atmos Energy from a safe distance at our toll-free emergency number: 866-EC-ATMOS (1-866-322-8667) or call 9-1-1.
  • Leave the area immediately and go to a safe location
  • Do not try to locate the source of the leak
  • Do not do anything that could cause a spark and ignite the gas:
    • Do not use electrical devices, such as light switches, telephones, or garage door openers
    • Do not use an open flame, matches or lighters
    • Do not start vehicles parked in the area
  • Do not try to shut off any natural gas valves
  • We will respond promptly at no charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Do not re-enter the building or return to the area until an Atmos employee says it is safe to return.

Published on February 7, 2016

Power Outages… What to Do?

Please report power outages by calling 888‐313‐4747. Also, customers may sign up for the Text Oncor program by texting “REG” to 66267, which will allow you to report outages and get updates during the storm. If citizens come across a downed power line, please stay away and call 911 immediately.

Published on December 1, 2015

Preventing Burglary of a Motor Vehicle

The burglary of personal property in a parked motor vehicle (BMV) continues to be a persistent problem in Bryan Place and Dallas in general. The Burglary of a Motor Vehicle represents about half of the reported crimes in Bryan Place and Dallas. The Dallas Police Department has the following BMV prevention tips:

Take, Lock, Hide.

  • Lock your vehicle.
    Yes, it takes seconds to break a window, but doing so makes noise– and criminals hate making noise. Also, officers report that in many instances where a victim left their vehicle unlocked (to prevent windows from being broken); the suspect broke the window anyway, expecting the vehicle to be locked.
  • Hide valuables from sight
    Or even better, take them with you. If a criminal doesn’t see anything, they’re less likely to break in and will go to the next vehicle to window shop. Remember to hide valuables BEFORE you park in the place you are leaving your vehicle. If a criminal sees your put a laptop in the trunk, they will just break into the backseat. If a criminal sees you reaching under a seat, they will assume something is under there and break in looking for property.
  • Park in areas that are not secluded
    Well-lit parking lots, with good “sight lines,” make it more likely your vehicle is visible to the general public. Attended parking lots, monitored by uniformed or easily identifiable legitimate parking attendants are ideal. Remember, criminals don’t like witnesses.
  • If you have an after-market stereo; consider models with removable faceplates
    Take the faceplate with you when you leave your vehicle.
  • Record serial numbers of property you may leave inside your vehicle
    If stolen, it makes it more likely the suspect, if he tries to pawn the item, will be identi..ied. In Dallas, pawn shops are required to record the names and proper Id information of persons pawning merchandise. If a serial number of a stolen piece ofproperty is identified, it is easy to identify the suspect who pawned it. Unfortunately, the vast majority ofproperty stolen is not marked, or the serial numbers are not recorded, and the property is never identified as stolen.

You can make yourself less likely to be a victim of BMV by following the above tips and using common sense. Simply locking your vehicle and removing property from inside is half the battle.

 

Published on November 1, 2015

Fire Safety Tips

Fire safety is everyone’s concern and it is always a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected. Please take a few minutes to review the following fire safety tips from the Dallas Fire Department.

General

  • Have chimneys cleaned and inspected annually by a professional.
  • Clear the area around the hearth of debris, flammables and decorative materials.
  • Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces and leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
  • Keep clothes, towels and other combustibles away from the stove burners.
  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Be sure your stove and small appliances are off before going to bed.
  • Check for frayed wires and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
  • Never overload electrical sockets.
  • Keep clothes, blankets, curtains and other combustibles at least three feet from portable heaters.
  • Place portable heaters where they will not tip‐over easily (by pets or foot traffic).

Escape Planning

  • Develop a fire escape plan with the members of your family and practice it often.
  • Know two ways to exit from every room in your home.
  • Make sure that safety bars on windows can be opened from inside your home.
  • Crawl low, under smoke.
  • Feel closed doors. If hot, use another exit.
  • Identify a place to meet outside in case of fire. Never re‐enter a burning building.
  • Escape first. Then call 911 for emergency assistance.

Smoke Alarms

  • Have a working fire alarm outside each sleeping area, inside each sleeping area and on each level of the home.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Do not change the battery if you have a lithium battery. The alarm will let out a periodic “chirp” when it needs to be changed.
  • Install smoke alarms away from air vents.
  • Install smoke alarms on the ceiling or wall, at least 4 inches from the corners.
  • When affixed to walls, smoke alarms should be between 4 and 12 inches from the ceiling.
  • Never disable or remove smoke alarm batteries.

Published on October 7, 2015

Fire Truck Friendly

Our beautiful close‐knit neighborhood with its narrow tree‐lined streets and little to no side‐yards can be the Fire Department’s worst nightmare when they need to quickly access our community in an emergency. A Fire Department representative attended the Bryan Place October 2010 general meeting to discuss the obstacles they have in navigating through a neighborhood such as ours and what we can do to help them keep our neighborhood safe (portions of the following were taken from the November 2010 Bryan Place newsletter).

  1. Keep trees trimmed at a decent height close to the street in order to provide enough clearance for the fire truck to maneuver through the neighborhood.
  2. Plants around fire hydrants should be removed so the fire hydrants can be easily seen by the firemen (do not try to hide or disguise the hydrants).
  3. Firemen only have an address to find their destination, so it is very important for the address to be visible and easily readable.
  4. Vehicles should never block a fire hydrant and should park at least 10 feet away on either side of the hydrants. Enough room should be available for the firemen to maneuver around the fire hydrant.
  5. The most formidable obstacle they experience in Bryan Place is parked cars on the street that block their access to ourommunity. Since our streets are extra narrow anyway, it is very important to be aware of other parked cars in relation to where you are parking when you (or your guests) are parking on the street. When possible, park in your garage or driveway to free up space on the street. Also, please do not park at the neck of a corner or cul‐de‐sac.

The firemen made a point of reminding residents that outdoor grills should not be located close to a wooden fence or wood siding. Grills should not be within 10 feet of anything that could burn or left unattended. Please be aware of where your grill is located and how a sudden gust of wind or grease fire could endanger the whole community. Since th original Fox & Jacobs BP homes were built with interior fire sprinklers (see August 2015 newsletter), hopefully, most indoor fires will be extinguished or controlled by the existing sprinklers. Fires starting outdoors can spread very quickly from a wood fence to the eave of your home and then on to your neighbor’s home. The last major fire in our community originated outdoors and quickly spread to three other homes causing a considerable amount of damage.

So please take a minute and walk through your property to see if you can make it safer for you and your community. The house or life you save may be your own.

 

Published on September 1, 2015

Home Fire Sprinkler System – Inspections

Background

Fox and Jacobs installed home fire sprinkler systems in Bryan Place to help offset the inherent fire risks associated with the density of the development. I have been told by several sources (including my plumber) that our sprinkler systems are tied directly into our home’s plumbing system without a separate cutoff valve. Each individual sprinkler head is activated by a heat sensor independent of the other sprinkler heads i.e., if there is a fire in the kitchen, only the kitchen sprinkler head will activate. This is by design, since the goal is to supply the maximum amount of water to the fire. If all the sprinklers go off at the same time, the water pressure will be substantially reduced to the target area.

Our sprinkler systems are now about 35 years old, and there has been concern by residents that the current systems may be outdated and/or ineffective. I asked Urban Fire Protection (972‐636‐2800, Ryan Pfuhl, ryan@urbanfire.com) about these concerns and was told that new systems typically operate with a cutoff valve and require a larger water main than most of our homes currently have. The larger water line is needed to accommodate the new sprinkler heads which are designed to put out more water than the old sprinkler heads. The new sprinkler heads are individually heat activated just like the old sprinkler heads. Most new systems also have an outdoor “test” feature by which water is triggered to flow outdoors to test the water pressure to the sprinkler heads (our systems do not have this feature). Of course, each project is unique, but Urban Fire Protection estimated that a retro‐fit to a new sprinkler system would cost about $3.50/s.f. based on the size of the home. The primary advantages of the new systems include the higher water output of the sprinkler heads and the ability to test the water pressure to the system.

Sprinkler System Inspections

Home insurance companies offer an insurance premium discount for homes with a fire sprinkler system. I have found that the discounts and requirements to obtain these discounts can vary greatly from company to company, so you may want to check with your insurance agent. The BPNA has organized group fire sprinkler system inspections twice over the past twenty years.

For those residents interested in an inspection of their sprinkler systems, we have been offered a group discount from Urban Fire Protection to come out on a Saturday in late August or early September. These inspections will include a visual inspection of each sprinkler head in your home, take 15‐20 minutes, cost $150 ($250 if you have it done individually) and they will provide you with an inspection certificate for your insurance company. If you are interested in an inspection or have any questions, please email me at doberst23@me.com .

Submitted by: Danny Oberst

Published on August 11, 2015

Spring Cleaning and Warmer Weather

Spring cleaning and warmer weather go hand in hand. The Electrical Safety Foundation (ESFI) recommends that along with removing the unwanted dust and clutter, homeowners also eliminate electrical hazards. ESFI suggests starting with the garage, an important (but often overlooked) space when it comes to home inspection and fire safety. This room usually contains one of the leading causes of home fires ‐ electrical distribution systems. Here are some important things to check when performing your own inspection:

  • Check the label inside the door or cover of your electrical service panel to see when your electrical system was last inspected. If the date has passed or is approaching, contact a licensed electrician to schedule an inspection.
  • Be sure circuit breakers and fuses are correctly labeled with their amperage and their corresponding rooms, circuits, or outlets. Use correct size and current rating for breakers/fuses.
  • Increase your fire protection by having a licensed electrician replace your standard circuit breakers with arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs).
  • Check for excessive vibration or movement when the washing machine or dryer is operating. This can put stress on electrical connections.
  • Make sure the area around your dryer is clutter free and that the dryer lint filter is cleaned after each load. Build up can be a fire starter.

Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and outside every sleeping area. Test these alarms to ensure that they are in working order and replace the batteries when needed.

Published on June 11, 2015

Traffic Signs, Crosswalks, and Traffic Study Update

In coordination and through the assistance of Councilman Kingston’s office, I have inquired with the city of Dallas regarding several items presented by members of BPNA.

1) Traffic speeding on Skiles and Pavillion.

We entered a request with the City to measure the speed of cars on Skiles and Pavillion. The Dallas Police Department deployed Sr. Cpl. Paul Michel to observe vehicles on Skiles and Pavillion during various points during the past couple of weeks. Sr. Cpl. Paul Michel reported that his observations revealed top speeds of no greater than 30MPH during the morning and afternoon commuting hours. If anyone has other times that they would like for me to request Sr. Cpl. Paul Michel to observe, please let me know.

2) Traffic signs for the intersection of San Jacinto and Hall.

Neighbors have reported several near accidents at the intersection of San Jacinto and Hall. We have requested that the City review the possibility of adding a stop sign on San Jacinto, making that a three‐way stop. An engineering study was initiated, and the staff will report their findings and actions by no later than June 30, 2015.

3) Cross walk marking/painting on Bryan at McCoy across from the park and across McCoy at the same location.

Neighbors have asked that we look into ways to increase the safety of the cross walk areas across from the park into the neighborhood. We requested that the City view and propose resolutions for the marking ofs. The City responded that the brick pavers in the street mark the cross walk area, and that they will not paint over the brick. They will, however, paint markings on the edges of the brick pavers on the concrete areas to highlight the cross walk areas. City staff stated that the painting would be completed prior to July 31, 2015.

I will continue to monitor the progress of these projects, and if anyone has ny questions or further concerns we are more than happy to shepherd those requests through the appropriate departments at the City.

 

Published on May 1, 2015

May is National Electrical Safety Month

Now is a great time to reexamine your surroundings and determine what preventive measures you can put into place, As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Keep an eye out for home hazards

Any of these may indicate that your home electrical system needs to be updated or repaired:

  • Frequent blown fuses
  • Dim or flickering lights
  • Sparks or sizzling sounds in outlets or walls
  • Overheated plugs, cords or switches
  • Smells of something burning or rubbery smells
  • Frayed wires
  • Feeling a mild shock or tingle when you plug in an appliance

Educate children about the dangers of electricity

Children should:

  • Never stick their fingers or any objects into light sockets or electrical outlets
  • Never touch damaged electric cords
  • Never touch anything electrical while wet or standing in water
  • Never fly kites or balloons near power lines
  • Never touch or come in contact with a downed power line
  • Never play on or around pad mounted transformers
  • Never enter an electric substation

Printed in Wood County Electric Cooperative Newsletter, May 2015

Published on May 1, 2015