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

When I host a national radio show and a podcast on all things technology, digital security is always present in every program. Take your home router, for example. An outdated model can put your entire network, your files, and everything connected to it at risk for hackers. Tap or click for five reasons why you need to replace that old router.

Other ways to protect your digital life don’t require spending a dime. Tap or click for four quick security checks you can perform for free right now.

Then there are these safety tips a little closer to home. Whether you have a full house or live alone, there is a lot you can do to feel safer where you live.

1. Connect with your community

Getting to know your neighbors can be one of the best ways to feel safer. If not, introduce yourself. You’ll feel better knowing the neighborhood has your back.

You can also discover the wider neighborhood thanks to NextDoor. Create an account to connect with people who live nearby. Get ready for a healthy dose of drama. I will never forget when I saw a post about someone driving too fast. Hmm, that was me.

A more fun way to access your community is to join a no-purchase group. This is where neighbors pass around items they no longer use. Let’s say you upgrade 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 pick it up.

Tap or click here to find a safe way to give and get free stuff in your neighborhood.

2. Configure your phone for emergencies

Your phone is always with you and can be a lifesaver in an emergency. A smart step is to turn on your phone’s Emergency SOS feature. When triggered, this calls emergency services and sends notifications and updates to personal emergency contacts you choose.

Set up emergency contacts for your iPhone

• Open the ap healthp and press your profile picture > Medical ID.

• Select Editthen scroll to Emergency contacts.

• Press the Add an emergency contact button, then select a Contact. Add their relationship.

• Hit Do to confirm your changes.

To call emergency services:

• Press the side button and one of the volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears.

• To call emergency services, drag the slider.

• You can also continue to hold the side and volume buttons to automatically contact emergency services.

When the countdown is over, your phone will contact emergency services.

RELATED: Apple Watches Save Lives, Too. Activate these features now.

Set up emergency and SOS contacts on your Android

• Open the Security appand sign in to your Google account.

• Faucet Settingsthen Medical Information to add information such as blood type, allergies or medications. Tap the list item you want to update.

• Faucet Emergency contactsthen Add contact and choose the existing contact you want to add.

You must now activate the SOS function of your Android:

• In this same application, press Security and emergency so what Emergency SOS.

• To light up Use Emergency SOS.

• You can also enable Play alarm sound to make a loud sound when Emergency SOS starts.

• Decide which emergency actions should be triggered when using Emergency SOS. Enable the actions you want to use: call emergency services and share information with emergency contacts.

To call emergency services:

• Press the power button five or more times. A five-second countdown begins before emergency actions begin. To cancel the Emergency SOS, swipe Undo to the right during the countdown.

• After the five-second countdown, emergency actions are initiated according to your settings.

Are you a keeper for someone in your life? If you can’t always be together, there are plenty of advanced technologies that can help. Tap or click here for more information on the fantastic Alexa Together service, including links to the Alexa devices you’ll need to use the service.

Mechanical or smart home timers can turn lights and a stereo or TV on and off when you're away from home.

3. Make it feel like home, even when you’re not

Whether you’re at work for the day or on vacation for a week, there are ways to make your home feel occupied even if 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 choice at a great price.

Tap or click here for an affordable indoor smart plug.

Got an Echo speaker? Alexa Guard is like a pair of ears you leave at home. Your Echo device will listen for broken glass, smoke detectors, or carbon monoxide detectors. You will receive 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 step-by-step instructions and four more smart ways to use your Echo and Alexa that you’ll wish you knew sooner.

4. Install a smart security system

Home security technology has come a long way since the days of elaborate hard-wired systems with long and expensive contracts. Now you can 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 it’s a company I always recommend. Of course, there are many options at different price points.

The cheapest does not translate into the best. I would avoid the cheap basement models you can find online. Tap or click to access essential home security camera features.

5. Think before posting online

We tend to want to post every exciting moment of our lives on social media, but it might not just be your friends watching your adventures. If you maintain a public profile, anyone can see that you’re exploring a new city away from home.

The easiest solution is not to post any personal information on social media, including your vacation schedule. Wait until you come back to share photos and videos.

If you’re determined to share in real time, at the very least make sure you limit 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 technological know-how

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 across the country. Look for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, click the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST CHOICE:Netflix Ads, Facebook News, Password Managers 101

In this episode Netflix ads are coming, Facebook and Instagram to start charging money, best golf apps, pros and cons of password manager, new home wiring tips and my smart tips with callers like you.

Check out my “Kim Komando Today” podcast 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”.

Discover 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 his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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