Pending Winter Storm Prompts Attention To Free Pop-A-Lock “PALSavesKids” Program

As the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions prepare for what some forecasters are already calling a record snow storm, Pop-A-Lock, the country’s largest security company, reminds parents and emergency organizations about its popular PALSavesKids program that directs regional franchisees and technicians to prioritize calls that involve unattended children in locked cars.

350,000 Children Saved From Locked Vehicles Since Program Inception

The goal of the PALSavesKids program is to prevent vehicular hypothermia and educate caregivers about the program through interaction with customers and the distribution of educational materials to organizations supporting caregivers and children, and through social media.

“We launched this program in 1991 to educate caregivers about the severe dangers of leaving children in unattended vehicles or mistakenly locking a child in an automobile,” said Pop-A-Lock Chief Executive Officer Don Marks.  “By using our expertise in the security industry, we are able to quickly and efficiently remove children from harm.  This program provides our franchise with the opportunity to thank the communities that have supported our business for so many years.”

Aimed at supporting local police and firefighters, the program instructs parents or other concerned citizens to first call 9-1-1 and then call 1-800-Pop-A-Lock.

The Pop-A-Lock technician nearest to the scene will prioritize the call to arrive as soon as possible to unlock the child from the automobile.  This free community service program has saved over 350,000 children since its launch 25 years ago.

Even though children may not be directly exposed to the snow and wind chill, they are still at risk for hypothermia if left in unattended vehicles. The following facts highlight the dangerous severity of leaving children in locked vehicles where they can fall victim to the quick onset of hypothermia:

  • Smaller body size and an inability to make enough body heat through shivering puts children at higher risk of hypothermia and frostbite when exposed to cold conditions.
  • According to the Drive Steady Advocacy Group, children left in cold cars can suffer frostbit, or hypothermia if their body temperature drops below 95ºF.. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion, poor coordination, slurred speech, and numbness. Children may have trouble communicating these symptoms.
  • Car seats and wearing restrictive clothing can actually increase the risk and worsen the chances of hypothermia in young children.
  • In addition, during winter months snow can block an automobile’s exhaust pipe, which mean parents or caregivers who leave the car on for their children to stay warm are still putting them at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

To prevent vehicular hypothermia from occurring, the PALSavesKids program includes a call-to-action: “PALSaves 1-2-3” that reminds caregivers to “look before you lock” by: 1-Stopping; 2-Looking; and then 3-Locking.

PALSavesKids’ mascot, PAL Super Dog, also offers gentle reminders to caregivers to always look in the backseat before leaving the vehicle.  Specific recommendations to prevent locking children in automobiles include:

  • Keep vehicles locked at all times; even in the garage or driveway and always set your parking brake.
  • Put something you’ll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or briefcase, etc., on the floorboard in the back seat.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal or favorite toy in the child’s car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is placed in the seat, put the stuffed animal or toy in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal or toy is up front you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat.

For more information about Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville or PALSavesKids Emergency Door Unlock Program, visit popalockofjacksonville.com/pal-saves-kids/ and follow us on Facebook (@JacksonvilleLocksmith) and Twitter (@popalockjax).

Duplicate Your High Security Keys is a Good Idea

Many Jacksonville home and vehicle owners can remember a time when a key for a mortise lock could be duplicated for under a quarter. With the high-security keys used in many home and vehicle locks today, that price seems to be long gone. Duplicating high-security keys can cost tens to hundreds of dollars. While high-security keys may look like ordinary keys, the technology within them makes them difficult to duplicate and requires advanced locksmithing tools and expertise.

Why Do Duplicate High-Security Keys Cost So Much?

High-security keys are designed to be difficult to copy without the proper equipment. That is why it costs so much to duplicate the key. Take, for example, automobile keys equipped with VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft System), a system developed in the 1980s to stem the theft of Chevrolet Corvettes.

VATS-equipped keys have pellets in their blades that have a particular electric resistance value. If an improper key is inserted into a car’s ignition and the onboard computer reads the wrong code in the key, the computer shuts the ignition system down for four minutes.

On the locksmith’s end, the expense incurred for generating a key for one of these vehicles is partially due to the cost of the pellet equipped blanks, the electronic equipment needed for the key to communicate with the on-board computer.

The difficulty of originating a key comes not from obtaining the correct pellet blank, but from the interrogation of the computer. Even with the proper blank and equipment, a locksmith can spend two hours trying to determine the proper resistance of the key. Even when a locksmith has the right “decoder,” every time he “asks the wrong question,” the computer shuts the system down.

Why Making Duplicate Keys Is Worth the Money

Despite the frustrations inherent in duplicating keys, they offer good, difficult-to-compromise security for Jacksonville, FL home and vehicle owners. That’s why the extra costs associated with duplicating the keys are justifiable. For example, insurers often offer discounts for vehicles that are VATS-equipped, since the systems decrease the chance vehicles will be stolen.

It is also wise to keep a properly coded and cut duplicate VATS key as an alternative to having a locksmith make new keys from scratch, which can cost upwards of three hundred dollars.

Though security can be expensive, having a backup system, including duplicate high-security keys, is a money saver. Let us know how we can help you by contacting Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville at 904-354-8566.

“Deadbolt Danger: Who has the keys to your house?”

This is a very insightful vlog from a news station. It introduces the idea that mass-produced locks may be a very dangerous item:

http://www.11alive.com/story/news/2015/05/13/deadbolt-danger-who-has-the-keys-to-your-house/27169595/

“Mass-produced locks could result in keys being duplicated and used to enter your home. Here’s how to keep your family safe.”

The article says to bring your coded key to a locksmith like us to be rekeyed. Another option is to get high security locks for your home or office. Whatever service you need, Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville has you covered!

Prevent Burglars from Getting In, But Don’t Block Your Way Out

Deadbolt should prevent burglars, not prevent you from getting out. Simply put: Don’t block your escape route in the event of an emergency.

There are many things you can do to boost home security, such as adding an alarm system or getting a guard dog, but unless you have working deadbolt locks and actually use them, your home isn’t secure, locksmiths say.

Many home intruders use force to gain entry in a majority of home burglaries. Often, deadbolts and locks in general are not functioning properly or they are simply inadequate, so the intruder is able to kick the door in.

A deadbolt is a type of lock with a steel bolt that extends into the door jamb and strike plate of a door frame. The most common type is the single-cylinder deadbolt, operated by a twist knob on the inside of the door and a key on the outside. Some people prefer the double-cylinder deadbolt, which doesn’t have a twist knob and requires a key for operation both inside and outside the home.

Forced Entry

According to the latest FBI statistics, there were 1.9 million burglaries in the United States in 2013, resulting in $4.5 billion in property loss. Out of all burglaries, 59 percent were the result of forced entry. Residential burglaries accounted for 74 percent of all burglaries, and a majority occurred during the daytime.

Quality deadbolts with a hardened steel bolt are suggested. For the deadbolt to function properly, the bolt must extend fully into the hole on the door jamb. The hole should be reinforced with a metal strike plate. If the bolt doesn’t extend all the way into the hole or if a strike plate isn’t used, the lock and door frame can be compromised.

Usually, when someone kicks in a door, it’s not the door that breaks – it’s the door frame. Therefore, you should use 3-inch screws to reinforce the strike plate into the studs of the frame of the house.

Even if you have a deadbolt lock on your door, it won’t make a difference if it’s not used regularly. Typically, many homeowners find it easier to lock the doorknob and often neglect to lock the deadbolt.

Although doorknobs are convenient, it’s deadbolts that make everything more secure.

Single- versus Double-cylinder?

Homeowners should take note that a single-cylinder deadbolt can be breached if an entry door has glass panels, because a burglar can break the glass and reach inside to unlatch the deadbolt. A double-cylinder deadbolt will protect against this, and we recommend homeowners keep a key close by – but out of arm’s reach. However, the double-cylinder deadbolt can be problematic in the event of a house fire because a key is required to unlock the door from the inside.

Another solution may simply be to replace the door itself. Many exterior doors are designed with security in mind, using reinforced glass or small windows far enough away from the lock to prevent a burglar from reaching in.

For additional security, avoid hiding a spare key under the doormat. It’s better to get a secure lockbox for your spare key. It is also recommended new homeowners have their locks changed, because there is no way to know who previously owned keys to your home.

If you need help installing a deadbolt lock in your home, give Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville a call at 904-354-8566.

What is Lock Bumping?

Have you ever wanted to know about lock bumping? Here is a little more information on this industry term.

What is Lock Bumping?
For many years, locksmith pros like Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville have utilized several methods and tools to bypass pin and tumbler locks for legal purposes. One such technique is called “bumping.” Lock bumping, also referred to as key bumping, is an attack technique using specially cut keys, known as bump keys, that can defeat conventional pin and tumbler locks.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition:
Lock bumping is a lock picking technique for opening a pin tumbler lock using a specially crafted bump key. A bump key must correspond with the target lock in order to function correctly

How is Lock Bumping Done?
Lock bumping uses the basic principles of physics by inserting a specially cut “bump-key” (also referred to as a 999 key) into the lock, then by using any type of object the key is then struck or “bumped”. The energy transferred from the impact forces the pins within the lock up above the shear line for a fraction of a second enabling the lock to be opened.

How Common is Lock Bumping?
According to statistics provided by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and the Department of Justice, nearly 2/3 of all break-ins occur with no sign of forced entry. Since there is no way to determine the actual method, it would be impossible to know for sure how many break-ins were a result of lock bumping. However, there are steps you can follow to help protect yourself, family and property. Door locks are just one form of security for your home. Consumers can also protect their homes by lighting the entry and perimeter areas, using alarm systems, motion detectors and even the family pet as deterrents to those that would attempt to enter your home.

What is Being Done to Prevent Lock Bumping?
State and federal laws prohibit the distribution of “locksmithing devices” to anyone other than lock manufacturers or others with a recognized legal purpose. Many organzation, such as the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association, are working with other organizations to minimize the risk that such devices can be obtained by individuals for improper purposes.

Do you need help with your locks? The best way to reach us is by phone at 904-354-8566.

How to Avoid a Carjacking

How do you avoid a car jacking? It’s a scary notion for many, but it’s important to think about these things beforehand so that you can act accordingly if you’re ever caught in a situation.

If you’ve read the news headlines, you’ll see that carjacking seems increasingly commonplace. Sad, but true – and even more reason for you to know how to deal with it should the situation arise:

  • A man robbed at gunpoint by a woman who got out of a van that pulled up behind his car.
  • A college student was abducted by two men who bumped her car from behind. When she got out to check for damage, the men abducted her.
  • A young mother dragged to her death when a carjacker pulled her from her car at gunpoint and drove off before she could disentangle herself from her seatbelt.

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Avoid becoming a victim and take a new approach to your personal safety. Below are some rules to help discourage those who seek to do harm:

  • Don’t roll your windows down for a stranger. Approaching you may be their attempt to gain entry to your vehicle.
  • If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer, ask for proper identification if the situation feels the least bit suspicious.
  • Don’t open your car door without first checking to see if anyone is hiding in your vehicle.
  • Try to keep some distance between your car and other cars at a traffic signal or stop sign. If a stranger approaches your car and you feel uncomfortable, do what is needed to get out of the area.
  • Don’t get out of your car in a strange neighborhood to inspect damage if someone bumps into your car. Instead, drive to the nearest well-lit store or service station. Then, get out of your car.
  • Beware suspicious activity on overpasses. If you suspect foul play, slow down, speed up, or change lanes.
  • Make sure that the windows are up and the doors are locked before you start your car.
  • Don’t panic. If you find yourself in a scary situation, a clear head is likely to get you out of trouble.

Above all, be careful and use good judgment. Ensure your personal safety by developing and implement your own “defensive driving” techniques. To learn more, contact Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville today at 904-354-8566.

Never Lose Your Keys Again

More and more new cars have smart keys and remotes that let you unlock the door and start the engine without a key. The devices are a marvel of technology and convenience … until you lose one and have to pay up to $500 to replace it at your dealership. Instead, try these tips for hanging on to your high-tech car keys and ways to make replacing them less painful:

Hard to Lose

First things first: Train yourself to treat keys differently. Attach your keyless-entry remote or fob to a larger item like a wallet or handbag makes it harder to lose. Or carry a compartmentalized bag where you hold you items like your laptop, wallet and key.

 

The Backup Plan

Don’t wait until keys are missing to make duplicates. Price out what they would cost, then look into alternatives. Seek out where your particular brand of replacements are available and order them ahead of time. This way, you won’t end up stranded for days without keys.

Tag Your Stuff

As auto-key technologies improve, so do the means of tracking lost goods. For example, Austrian-based company Locca offers miniature GPS-powered trackers that attach to small items. Should your stuff go missing, you can track it on the Locca app in real time. An alternative to GPS locators, Okoban tracker tags let you register items with the company’s global lost-and-found service. Attach a tag to your keys; whoever finds them can follow the goodness of their heart and tell you where the keys are by entering an identification code online.

The Replacements

If your keys are lost for good, replacements from your dealership can be expensive. But sites like eBay, KeylessRide and others offer after-market and factory keys that are often considerably cheaper. You may need to visit your dealer to have your new keys programmed (for a fee) and you still may need to pay a locksmith if your smart system includes a good old-fashioned metal key. The total cost should still be lower, and the relief, as they say, priceless.

Home Security Tips

Thinking about home security might seem like common sense, but there are plenty of precautions to keep in mind. Here are few recommendations from us at Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville:

  1. Remove trees or branches that are close to your premises. This denies burglars access to upper levels.
  2. Windows, skylights, pet doors, patio doors, garage and carport access doors, upper level balcony doors and small bathroom windows are common forced entry points. Keep them locked when away and secured when at home.
  3. Don’t leave “hidden” keys in all the usual spots for thieves to find, such as under the mat, on a ledge, in a planter or on a door frame. Instead give a spare key to a trusted neighbor or hide a key on their property. If a prowler comes across the key they won’t know what it opens.
  4. Lighting can be used as cheap security. Always leave some lights on in your house at night, even when you are home.
  5. When going out, make sure your home looks occupied by leaving more than one light on.
  6. Close the drapes at night to hide the fact that no one is home. Drapes, curtains or blinds should fully cover windows.
  7. Always leave outside lights on at night. Thieves would rather work in the dark so no one can spot them, notify police, and identify them.
  8. Never place the packing materials from an expensive item on the curb for trash pickup. Instead, cut up the box and tie it with string, carefully hiding the product identification.
  9. When someone comes calling, don’t pretend you are not at home. Burglars want to find homes that are un-occupied so they can break-in. However, never open your door when you don’t know or trust the person(s) on the other side. Talk through the door or a nearby window. Chain locks are not strong enough, do not open the door! If you must have the door opened slightly, a floor mounted, retractable door wedge is an excellent security option.
  10. Never give out your personal information over the telephone to someone you don’t really know who you are speaking with. Often the caller will ask when they can contact you and then they have a better idea when you are going to be away.

Keyless Locks Versus a Regular Deadbolt

With all of this new technology on the rise, you might have been wondering about keyless locks and whether they’re right for you. Believe it or not, the bolts in keyless locks and deadbolts are essentially the same. However, if you go keyless, you might find it more convenient than the deadbolt.

Some benefits of keyless locks include:

  • Some systems lock automatically a few seconds after you leave.
  • You don’t risk someone finding a key you’ve hidden outside.
  • Some link to Blue tooth so you can operate the lock via a smartphone or tablet app.
  • It’s easy to change codes, and you can set temporary ones that expire after a designated time.
  • Weather can affect how they function; they might not perform well after prolonged exposure to extreme heat, sun or cold.

 

Some things to consider before committing to a keyless lock system:

  • You’ll need to change the battery about once a year.
  • Someone could observe the numbers you input and learn your code.
  • If you don’t change your code periodically, affected keys can wear down, increasing the chance of someone guessing the code.

Keyless locks are also more expensive than traditional deadbolts. Expect to pay $30 to $50 to install a traditional deadbolt, and $150 to $250 for a keyless version. Prices vary depending on brand and quality.

When hiring an installer, consider an experienced locksmith like Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville. We can help you spot defects like sagging hinges and other potential problems.

Perhaps not having to remember where your keys are sounds liberating? It might sound like an attractive option to parents whose kids frequently lose house keys. However, keyless systems are battery-operated and could fail if a battery isn’t changed in time. Fortunately, most systems provide a key override. These are just a few things to think about if you’re considering foregoing the traditional deadbolt with a multilock system and going keyless.

If you’d like more information about key installation, we at Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville will be glad to help in any way we can. Give us a call at 904-354-8566.

Protect Yourself and Your Purchases This Holiday Season

We are just a week shy of the Christmas holiday. As with every year, the winter season has us doing our holiday shopping right after Thanksgiving and continuing in full swing until the end of the year. Since there are so many people out on the road and going to and from stores, there leaves a lot of vulnerability between you, your personal belongings, and your purchases – both those you carry with you and leave in your car. In order to effectively “shop defensively” this holiday season, please keep this list of reminders at hand, so you can shop safely and consciously:

Avoid Being a Target for Burglars

  • Always shop with a friend. You are more likely to become a target if you are alone.
  • Park your car in a well-lit area.
  • Wear your purse or bag across your body. This way your hands will be free for your keys when you head to your car.
  • Combine your purchases into one bag, if possible.

 

Be Alert at All Times

  • Walk briskly to your car. Avoid talking or texting on your phone, or digging into your bag for your keys while walking.
  • Have your keys ready in your hand while walking toward your vehicle.

In Your Car

  • Keep your purchases out of sight in your parked car to prevent break-ins.
  • Check your back seat for potential burglars before getting into your car.

On the Web

  • Use credit, not debit. Credit cards offer much better protection against fraud than most debit cards.
  • When shopping online, verify the website’s URL and shop only from known retailers. There are websites out there that are created to look like real storefronts, but are instead scams and spoofed websites that may steal your personal information.
  • Be sure your anti-virus program is up-to-date. Shop at home and not on public Wi-Fi networks, such as at cafes, libraries or airports.

Remember to stay alert even during daytime shopping hours. Crimes aren’t restricted to night hours and can occur at any time. We hope that, with these tips, you’ll have a fun, productive and, most importantly, safe holiday season.