Why is safety a need?
Safety is one of our primary and evolutionary needs. Every day we make decisions and take actions to sustain or enhance our circumstances. Unlike early man, we are not in constant danger, but we still use environmental information to decide every instant whether we are safe or unsafe and provide a fight or flight response.
Safety can refer to three main aspects:
1. Physical safety. It relates to our body being safe on a specific moment in time. When unsafe, our life is in danger, and such a condition typically decreases the quality of our life, increasing our stress hormone levels.
2. Financial safety. It indicates that we are self-reliant and able to make decisions about our life based on improvement opportunities rather than on survival ones. Money doesn't give happiness, but it does enable the stability required to achieve greater things.
3. Emotional safety. It implies living in an environment based on trust, not only of our feelings but also of the people around us.
How does safety differ from security?
We sometimes use the words safety and security interchangeably. Although most of the contemporary issues usually involve both security and safety aspects, we can easily recognise the key differentiating factor among them. In essence, it lies in the source of the threat: intentional versus non-intentional.
Safety is the state of being shielded from harm or other non-desirable outcomes, caused by non-intentional failure (ex. technical failures, or forces of nature). Security, instead, is the state of being shielded from harm or other non-desirable outcomes caused by intentional human actions or human behaviour (ex. robbery, assault, or intrusion).
What is safety and security at home?
Safety and security are often not considered when planning to build or renovate a house. Nevertheless, within the home environment, these two concepts assume crucial importance.
From one hand, safety at home mostly concentrates on preventing injuries. In essence, many home accidents can be avoided by including simple, safe design features to eradicate the risks leading to falls, burns, bumps, cuts, poisoning, drowning, and more.
From the other, security at home primarily focuses on reducing crimes. In essence, by-design or through the introduction of suitable fixtures, a house can maximise its ability to keep out intruders, therefore, minimising theft, robbery, vandalism and more. Even if the monetary value of stolen goods would be low, house break-ins leave devastating consequences on victims, which can feel their privacy and personal space violated.
How can smart home enhance safety and security?
Smart home technologies enable a higher level of control and real-time management of the house in the event of a potential safety- or security-related trouble. Such technology provides the peace of mind of being instantly notified and taking complete control of the situation to minimise possible damages.
A smart home can provide all that, leveraging on three main aspects:
1. Surveillance. The aim is to give more control and information about the security of the home through smart cameras, smart door locks, or intrusion sensors, and more.
2. Hazard prevention. The aim is to take care of the safety of the home by preventing hazards such as fire or leakages through smoke sensors, water leak detectors, and more.
3. Ambient assisted living. The aim is to support people with special needs to manage their household activities autonomously or to protect older adults, children or chronically ill people in their daily activities.
Many safety and security factors influence physical well-being at home. For example, the structural conditions (design, construction, maintenance) can increase the risk of injuries, the quality of indoor air can contribute to asthma, the quality of water can lead to gastrointestinal illness and the presence of chemicals can cause acute poisoning.
When we feel safe and secure, it is easier to relax and to achieve our stability: we are free from the fear and threat of dangers. Menaces to safety and security come in many configurations, varying from deliberate violence to accidental injury, all this degrading the quality of life of the victim and, often, of its beloved ones.
How safe and secure we feel at home and in our neighbourhood can determine our social habits and sense of freedom. Home is where we might spend a significant amount of time, so it is crucial to feel at ease with people living under the same roof as well as to connect with the community around us.
1. Open your home just to people you know. Do not let people enter your home or garage unless you know them or you have robust security measures in place. Ask always for identification and do not trust all the info you get. You can double-check the information by searching the company they work for on the internet and by contacting them directly. Consider that, what people see in a given moment, can be used to his/her benefit in the future.
2. Lock your home accesses. When going out, even if it is just for a while, and when going to bed, make sure that all your external home doors, windows, shutters and garage doors are locked. Locking your home accesses will difficult burglars' job and invite them to look for another target.
3. Protect your network. If you have not still done it, change the default password of your Wi-Fi router. These default passwords are sometimes available on the internet, and not replacing them means exposing all your devices to hackers.
4. Use strong passwords. Using the longest passwords possible, with a minimum of 16 characters, that combine letters, numbers and special characters decreases the risk of credential theft. Random password generators usually ensure the creation of strong passwords.
5. Use unique passwords. Using different passwords for each service or application (shopping websites, social platforms, but also smart home devices) prevents automatic access to all of them when one these are breached.
6. Do not share your passwords. The same way you do not share your physical home keys with others, you should not be sharing your password and access codes to services, applications and devices.
7. Keep your passwords secure. The same way you should not be leaving your home keys hidden outside your home, you should not be writing down your passwords at any place, neither on paper nor in a digital text file. A password manager can help you to store your passwords securely. In any case, if you write down a password, keep the document on a secure place.
8. Renew or change your passwords when needed. It is a good practice to change your password from time to time and to avoid using similar combinations. Modifying them becomes especially important if you have shared a password with someone else or if you have lost it. The same applies in the physical world: if you lose your home key, then change your door lock.
9. Update your software. When software updates are available, do not wait and go through them. Software updates usually include patches to security holes and features to enhance user experience. If the device that you have adopted comes with an auto-update possibility, make sure to enable it.
10. Use multi-factor authentication. When adopting new devices or signing-up to new services and applications, go through the settings looking for the possibility to enable multi-factor authentication. In this way, the next time that someone tries to access your account an additional authentication will be required. For instance, a code will be sent to your phone or the person trying to access will need to scan his fingerprint.
11. Prevent after-use breaches. In the case of owning a product that is no longer supported by the brand, and to prevent unpatched security vulnerabilities, you may want to contact the customer service or to recycle the product directly. On the other side, before recycling or reselling a device, reset it and make sure that all your information has been deleted.
12. Use trusted brands. Rely on manufacturers and brands that are well known on the market. They have a reputation to maintain as well as the resources and capabilities of satisfying your privacy and security needs by providing transparency and ideally, end-to-end encryption, being you then the only person that has access to your data and information.
13. Count on trustful people. Having trustful relationships with your neighbours or living close to other family members can be helpful to manage any emergency or other minor problems, especially when you are away for more extended periods. For instance, they can take a look at your property while you are away, or collect your daily mail to avoid drawing thieves' attention and to prevent strangers from using your personal information. As well, setting up a group chat with the direct neighbours can be very useful to alert others in case of emergency.
1. Follow food hygiene practices. Washing your hands, keeping your cutlery, crockery and other kitchen utensils and surfaces clean, keeping your food at the appropriate temperatures recommended by producers, cooking your food thoroughly, keeping fish, meat and fresh vegetables separated from cooked food, and using safe water are some of the actions that you can take to avoid foodborne diseases.
2. Limit the intake of fats, sugar, salt and alcohol. Opting for cooking methods such as steaming or grilling instead of frying, removing excess fat from food, avoiding certain types of food like red meat or baked goods, relying on natural sources of sugar such as fruits, avoiding adding salt when cooking and on the table when eating, rinsing canned food like chickpeas to remove extra sodium, avoiding consuming alcohol to keep your immune system healthy and staying hydrated are some of the basic principles of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
1. Follow your own pace. Improving your physical condition one week after another is a good sign, but it is more important to follow a routine and to be constant. Do not push yourself with training programmes that are not aligned with your goals and your fitness level, or you will run the risk of being injured in the process.
2. Avoid safety threats. Staying focused on what you are doing, minimising distractions, keeping your music at a reasonable level and keeping your working space clear from anything that could make you fall or hurt yourself are some of the measures that you can take to exercise safely.
3. Stay in touch with a partner. Depending on your fitness level and the type of exercises that you perform the risks to which you are exposed may change. It is therefore recommended to let your friends or family know when you are exercising alone, or even better, to exercise and live your progress together.
1. Decrease poisoning chances. Organising products by type, storing medicines in a cabinet that is difficult to reach by children or keeping liquids on their original packaging avoiding mixtures between different substances can help to decrease the risk of poisoning.
2. Avoid exposure to air pollutants. Tracking air pollutants and especially smoke and carbon monoxide within your home will make you aware of any potential risk of poisoning and fire at home.
1. Simulate presence at home. Setting home automation rules like the turning on and off of both indoor and outdoor lights can be helpful to prevent some break-ins while you are away.
2. Illuminate the outdoors of your home. Avoiding dark spots around your home will make it more difficult for thieves to approach it while increasing the chances of seeing and identifying them.
1. Limit the penetration of outdoor noise pollution. Installing roller shutters, sealing all your windows and doors, and covering your walls with furniture or paintings are some of the ways to limit the intrusion of exterior noise sources (weather, construction, industry, transportation or other households).
2. Mitigate your exposure to indoor noise pollution. Using carpets to absorb sound and silent appliances to decrease noise emissions, turning off devices when not in use, staying away and closing the door of noisy rooms like the utility room or the kitchen, masking noises with other more pleasant sounds, keeping the volume of your music at a reasonable level (below 85dB for a maximum of 8 hours per day) and wearing plugs are some actions that you can take to reduce your exposure to loud noises.
1. Decrease fire chances. Some of the actions that you can take to decrease the probability of starting a fire are: switching off the devices that we do not frequently use, closing the gas stopcock after each use, blowing out candles when not in use, keeping belongings away from heat sources like heaters, kitchen appliances or the ironing, staying close to frying pans, toasters, ovens or other heating sources when in use, decreasing the number of things we accumulate, keeping heat sources away from children or maintaining the gas and electrical installations.
1. Decrease flood chances. Turning off all taps when moving to another room, clearing your gutters, checking that your rain spouts outlets are free from any obstacle and pointing drain sewers, cleaning your home pipes recurrently, checking your irrigation system to make sure that works properly, maintaining your roof or closing the water valve when leaving home for more extended periods are some of the actions you can take to decrease flood chances at home.
2. Avoid exposure to pipe breaks. Tracking your water consumption and using water leak detectors at home will help you to identify potential pipe leakages and dripping taps.
1. Secure your home access points. Doors and windows are the most used entry points by burglars. Inspecting all outdoor accesses, installing shutters on all windows and reinforcing these measures with the integration of grilles, bars and intrusion sensors are some of the actions that you can take to make your home access points more secure.
2. Increase the control points. Installing security cameras, intrusion sensors, or video doorbells can make you present in any single area of your home without being physically there. These devices can be helpful both to detect break-ins and to facilitate the identification of criminals.
3. Include visual and sound alerts. Burglars do not like noises nor alarm systems, so installing a siren and a security system label at a visible place outdoors can decrease their willingness to enter your home. As well, apart from a great companion, a dog can also be an excellent safety and security guard.