How to feel safer at home, from smartphone SOS service to security – USA TODAY

When I host a national radio show and podcast about all things tech, digital security is always in every program. Take your home’s router, for instance. An outdated model can put your entire network, files, and anything connected to it at risk for hackers. Tap or click for five reasons you need to replace that old router.
Other ways of protecting your digital life don’t require spending a dime. Tap or click for four quick security checks you can do now for free.
Then there are those security tips a little closer to home. Whether you have a full house or live alone, there’s a lot you can do to feel safer where you live.
Getting to know your neighbors can be one of the best ways to feel more secure. If you haven’t, introduce yourself. You’ll feel better knowing the neighborhood has your back.
You can get to know the broader neighborhood, too, through NextDoor. Create an account to connect with people who live nearby. Just get ready for a healthy dose of drama. I’ll never forget when I saw a post about someone driving too fast. Ahem, it was me.
A more fun way to get to your community is to join a buy nothing group. This is where neighbors pass around items they no longer use. Let’s say you’re upgrading your TV and need to get rid of the old one. Rather than go through the trouble of selling it, ask if anyone nearby would like to come and get it.
Tap or click here to check out a safe way to give away and get free stuff in your neighborhood.
Your phone is always with you and can be a lifeline in an emergency. A smart step is to activate your phone’s emergency SOS feature. When triggered, this will call emergency services and send notifications and updates to your chosen personal emergency contacts.
Set up emergency contacts for your iPhone
• Open the Health app and tap your profile picture > Medical ID.
• Select Edit, then scroll to Emergency Contacts.
• Tap the Add emergency contact button, then select a contact. Add their relationship.
• Hit Done to confirm your changes.
To call emergency services:
• Press the side button and one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider pops up.
• To call emergency services, drag the slider.
• You can also continue holding the side and volume buttons to contact emergency services automatically.
Once the countdown ends, your phone will contact emergency services.
RELATED: Apple watches save lives, too. Turn on these features right now.
Set up emergency contacts and SOS on your Android
• Open the Safety app, and sign in to your Google Account.
• Tap Settings, then Medical information to add info like blood type, allergies, or medications. Tap the item in the list you want to update.
• Tap Emergency contacts, then Add contact and choose the existing contact you want to add.
Now you need to activate your Android’s SOS feature:
• In this same app, tap Safety & emergency and then Emergency SOS.
• Turn on Use Emergency SOS.
• You can also turn on Play alarm sound to play a loud sound when Emergency SOS starts.
• Decide which emergency actions should trigger when you use Emergency SOS. Turn on the actions you want to use: Call emergency services and Share info with emergency contacts.
To call emergency services:
• Press the Power button five times or more. A five-second countdown begins before emergency actions are started. To cancel Emergency SOS, swipe Cancel to the right during the countdown.
• After the five-second countdown, emergency actions are started depending on your settings.
Are you a caretaker for someone in your life? If you can’t always be together, a lot of great tech can help. Tap or click here for more information on the fantastic Alexa Together service, including links for the Alexa devices you’ll need to use the service.
Whether you’re at work for the day or off on a weeklong vacation, there are ways to make it look like your home is occupied even though it’s empty. Mechanical or smart home timers can turn lights and a stereo or TV on and off.
Tap or click here for a great outdoor smart plug pick at a good price.
Tap or click here for an affordable indoor smart plug.
Have an Echo speaker? Alexa Guard is like a pair of ears you leave at home. Your Echo device will listen for glass breaking, smoke alarms, or carbon monoxide alarms. You’ll get an alert on your phone if these sounds are detected.
Alexa Guard can also automatically turn any connected smart lights on and off to make it look like you’re home. Tap or click for steps for this and four other clever ways to use your Echo and Alexa that you’ll wish you knew sooner.
Home security technology has come a long way since the days of elaborate hard-wired systems with lengthy, expensive contracts. You can now customize a system for your home that includes exactly what you want and even set it all up yourself.
SimpliSafe is a sponsor of my national radio show, and they’re a company I always recommend. Of course, there are many options at different price points.
The cheapest doesn’t translate to the best. I’d avoid the bargain basement models you can find online. Tap or click for the essential features of home security cameras.
We tend to want to post every exciting moment in our lives on social media, but it might not be just your friends who are watching your adventures. If you maintain a public profile, anyone can see you’re exploring a new city far from home.
The simplest solution is not to post personal information on social media, including your vacation schedule. Wait until you get back to share photos and videos.
If you’re determined to share in real time, at least be sure to restrict your accounts to trusted friends and family. Tap or click here for 10 Facebook privacy and security settings you need to change right now.
Keep your tech-know going
My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.
PODCAST PICK: Netflix ads, Facebook news, password managers 101
In this episode, Netflix ads coming, Facebook and Instagram to start charging money, best golf apps, password manager pros and cons, new home wiring tips, and my smart advice with callers like you.
Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.


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