"Read this book, of course.”
NBC NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT AND HOST OF “ROSSEN REPORTS” ON TODAY BRINGS THE ULTIMATE HANDBOOK TO LIFE.
Do you know where to take shelter in an earthquake? How to bust a lying car mechanic? Save money at the store?
You’ll know now.
Every morning, millions of Americans watch Jeff Rossen explain how to solve our most harrowing problems, such as: how to put out a kitchen fire, find bedbugs, avoid rip-offs, and even how to survive a plane crash. In Rossen to the Rescue, he includes daring experiments, expert advice, and game plans for handling all the wild cards in life—big and small—while sharing personal, and sometimes embarrassing, anecdotes that he couldn’t tell on television. Overflowing with never-before-seen tips and tricks, this book is filled with enough hacks to keep you and your family safe…and it just might save your life.
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PROTECTING YOUR HOME
We think of our homes as safe. A place to unwind, relax, and recharge. Yet if we're not careful ...
How to Survive a Home Invasion
How to Spot Hidden Mold
Why Your New House May Catch Fire
You Probably Don't Have a Fire Escape Plan
Help! I'm Locked Out!
When the Bottom Falls Out ... Literally
Surviving Mother Nature
Secret Spies Inside Your Bedroom
How to Survive a Home Invasion
1986. Midnight. I was ten years old, sound asleep in my bedroom. My brother was asleep in his room, and my parents asleep in theirs.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
The sound woke me up.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
The sound came from downstairs. It didn't sound like my father or a friend or a neighbor who came to borrow a cup of sugar. The sound was terrifying. Alien.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
I pulled the covers close to me. I was paralyzed — my family had never discussed a "safety plan" in case of a home invasion, and I didn't know what to do. I stayed frozen in my bedroom.
My father, however, did not stay frozen.
I heard my parents' bedroom door swing open, and my father raced from his room and flicked on the lights. He suddenly transformed into an action-movie hero.
"We're home and I have a bat!" my father screamed, charging downstairs. He jumped seven stairs at a time, headlong into the face of danger. "I have a bat!" he yelled again.
My dad's heroics worked. He scared the would-be robber away and, as we crept downstairs into the kitchen, I saw something terrifying. The bang, bang, bang had come from a thief kicking the dead bolt on our back door. The lock was busted. The door frame was cracked. One more kick and he would have been inside, and then ... who knows what. It had been raining that night, and when I looked outside I could see footprints in the lawn. I can still see those footprints. And I still have a lingering fear of home invasions; even when I travel, I avoid first-floor hotel rooms.
The statistics provide little comfort, as home invasions are more common than you might think — they happen nearly 50,000 times a year, or 135 every day. No one is immune. In recent years, Sandra Bullock, Ray Allen, and even the Kennedy family had their homes violated.
If the rich and famous are vulnerable — even with their fancy security systems — all of us are. Anyone can find themselves in the predicament like Susan Dawson from Fountain Hills, Arizona, who was the victim of a home invasion. Her story is chilling. She saw an intruder in her home, and screamed, "Oh my gosh, who are you?!" and then he ran across the room and punched her in the nose. Then he tied her up.
"I lay there, and he kept going through the bedroom, looking for stuff," Susan told me. While tied up she kept asking herself, How is he going to kill me?
Susan lived to tell the tale. And she's proof that there are, thankfully, a few things you can do to maximize your chances of making it out alive. For guidance, I spoke to Wallace Zeins, a former NYPD detective, and a hostage negotiator with twenty-two years of experience. (Zeins has a tough, intense stare — this is not a guy you want to play in a poker tournament.)
"So if I hear a noise in my home, what do I do?" I ask him.
"Real simple. A lot of people don't have alarms, they're very expensive. So ... instead of leaving your car keys downstairs, leave them on your night table."
His advice is simple, easy, and smart. If you hear a noise downstairs, just click the car alarm, and that should frighten the intruder, meaning you won't have to race downstairs like my father. Intruders hate the attention. Noise is the enemy.
There's another thing you can do, and it costs less than a dollar. For about ninety-nine cents, you can buy a tiny alarm called a "window alert." You just stick it on a window or a door, and if an intruder opens it, the sensors get separated and it emits a loud, piercing alarm.
And in that vein, there are plenty of new, affordable gadgets that work with your smartphone where you get an alert right away when someone is in your home. With the Canary home security system, for example, a live video feed shows you their every move, and you can even call police with the touch of a button. Best part? The gadgets record everything.
So what happens if, worst case, you are captured like Susan Dawson? There's one key course of action: cooperation. If they ask where the money is, you tell them. If they ask where the jewelry is, you tell them. You can always get more cash or sapphires; you can never get a new heartbeat. "Treat them like royalty," advises Zeins. This is exactly what Susan Dawson did, and this is why she's still alive.
It pays to play it safe and take these precautions. It's also worth remembering that these guidelines — like all the guidelines in this book — are just that, guidelines, and not hard and fast rules. In any life-and-death situation, you need to keep your head on a swivel and be prepared to improvise. My dad did not technically play things by the book, but he may have saved our lives. Then again, in 1986, we didn't have remote-controlled car alarms or ninety-nine-cent window alerts. Our "home alarm" was a baseball bat and a whopping dose of courage. (Thanks again, Dad.) But now we do have those technologies — let's use them.
How to Spot Hidden Mold
My kids are young, so sippy cups are my life. I have what seems like every color, every shape, every style. I clean them after every use. But then I saw something that rocked my sippy little world.
A woman snapped a photo of her son's sippy cup and it went viral. From the outside the cup looked normal. Clean. Shiny. When you peel open the lid, however, you can see dark clumps of mold that look like a mix of vomit, feces, and rotten cheese. Lovely. The photos freaked out the parenting community, including me.
So that got me thinking ... how much mold is lurking in my home?
I like to think my family is tidy. We regularly scrub our counters, sweep, mop, vacuum, even dust. (Okay, maybe "regular dusting" is a stretch. But we do own a feather-duster. I think.) To put my own home to the test, I invite a certified mold inspector, Matt Waletzke, to expose my moldy laundry.
Waletzke ping-pongs through my apartment, back and forth, from room to room, opening cabinet doors and peering underneath furniture. (Why did I agree to this?) He points a handheld contraption that looks straight out of Star Trek, with a tiny monitor that analyzes what's lurking under my sink.
I feel good about the kitchen. It's clean ... and then he opens the cabinet door under the sink.
"You find anything?" I ask.
"I did. Under here, where you keep all of your cleaning products." He points to some dark stains underneath the bottles of (ironically) disinfectant. "There's a plumbing leak here, which is causing some moisture and some mold growth." If left unchecked, it could become a bigger problem.
Then he stands up and points to my sink, which, if I do say so myself, looks spotless. I take pride in a clean kitchen and a clean sink. He holds up a little metal tray that holds our sponge. "Down in this little tray here, there's a lot of black growth...."
Are you kidding me? Then it dawns on me ... this is the very tray that holds the sponge. The sponge is what I use to clean the dishes. The dishes are used to eat food. The food goes in my body.
"And then one thing a lot of people don't know about is underneath the refrigerator," the inspector says. "Under here there's a drip pan."
A refrigerator has a "drip pan"? No one told me about drip pans. They don't teach you that in Grown-Up 101. Waletzke bends to his knees, reaches under the fridge, and pulls out a large tray. The tray oozes with dark liquids and slime and murky sauces. I avert my eyes, horrified.
"That is hideous!" I cry out.
"Yeah," he agrees, not even bothering to sugarcoat it. "This is all mold and bacterial growth that's built up over time."
"I never even knew this was here." I'm still shell-shocked.
"Most people don't." He adds that you can avoid this problem by cleaning the drip pan once or twice a month. "That's enough to take care of it."
Again I force myself to look at the brown sewage-looking water inside the pan. "This is the kind of stuff that can make you sick, if it's left untreated?" "It could."
He heads to the washing machine, and when he opens the door I breathe a sigh of relief. Phew. It's clean. Then he peels back the rubber liner from the door ... and reveals dark smudges and streaks of mold. So. Damn. Gross. "How dangerous is this?"
"That could be dangerous if it gets airborne and you're breathing it."
Of course I didn't know any of that ... so I was putting my kids at risk without even realizing it.
And now for the coup de grace: my bathroom. He steps into my shower, pokes around the shampoo and conditioner bottles, and then motions for me to step inside the shower. We're now both standing inside my small shower. Just two grown men in the shower, face-to-face, having a conversation about mold.
"This is not weird at all," I say, and he laughs a little.
Waletzke holds up the shampoo bottles. "You and your wife have a lot of products in here, and sometimes, when you don't use them all the time, you don't notice the buildup."
I look closer. At the bottom of the bottle is a thick, black layer of grime. Ew. "Ugh, that's disgusting," I say, by way of scientific analysis.
He points to more bottles, more hair products, and more dark stains. My entire shower is a cesspool.
Waletzke points to another bottle, this one with a tag at the bottom. "You can see the mold growth on the tag. Mold loves paper like that."
"So I should rip the stickers off, at the very least?"
"At the very least," he agrees, "especially in the shower."
He finds more cheery news in the bathtub. Every night, before my kids go to bed, I give them a bath. I use a blue plastic pail to scoop water on their heads. Waletzke inspects this blue pail ... and finds an unholy amount of dark slime.
"And this is the pail that I use ... every night to pour over my kids heads when I wash their hair," I say, staring at the slime. "That's scary."
"It is," he says grimly.
"Hey, thanks so much for coming by, by the way."
"Anytime." We shake hands.
"Never come over again," I say, laughing, and he laughs, too, but I wasn't really joking.
Why Your New House May Catch Fire
Every year, thousands of people are killed in house fires. Usually there's very little time to escape — just a few minutes, tops. And it seems like the problem is getting worse. I'm no fire marshal, but it sure feels like homes are burning faster than they used to when I was a kid. Are today's homes actually more flammable than the ones from the old days?
I decide to channel my inner pyromaniac to create a little experiment. In a fire lab in Chicago, a team constructs two mini "homes" and builds them side by side. The first room is a throwback to the seventies or eighties, the way homes used to be built, and is decorated with older furniture. The coffee table is made from real wood. The couch is made from natural fabrics.
The second room? It looks a lot like, well, the way your own home probably looks now. It has modern furniture and synthetic fibers — synthetic curtains, a synthetic couch, even synthetic fibers in the coffee table.
It's time for the fire. I put on a hard hat and safety goggles — (not the sexiest look, but it keeps us safe) — and watch them light that eighties house. I stand inside the old room with John Drengenberg, a consumer safety director at Underwriters Laboratories. The pros start a fire on the old couch, and a pillow begins to gently burn. I brace myself for a dramatic flame and an explosion, but instead ... just a few licks of fire. I wait for a minute — still just a small flicker. Two minutes — it has barely spread. Three, four, five minutes ... no fiery inferno, no scorching flames.
Ten minutes: the fire is still contained to the couch.
Fifteen minutes: Yep, still on the couch.
Twenty-five minutes: The fire still hasn't left the couch. Theoretically, I had time to calmly sit down on the floor and watch an entire episode of Seinfeld. (Note to reader: Do NOT watch an entire episode of Seinfeld while your home is burning around you.) The fire still hasn't spread to the coffee table, it hasn't reached the plant, and the puffs of black smoke, while not exactly pleasant, are not yet overpowering.
Finally the rest of the room gets engulfed by the flames, and I scamper out the door to safety. It took thirty minutes for that eighties house to burn. Of course it's still a very dangerous situation, but it allows plenty of time for you and your family to get to safety.
How about the modern room?
The pros start the fire in the same place — on the synthetic couch.
Whoooooosh! Instantly the flames dance higher and higher, quickly spreading across the couch. "The backing of your carpet is synthetic, your drapes are synthetic, the couch, the pillows are synthetic," says Drengenberg, the safety director. "They burn hotter and faster than natural materials do."
Do they ever. Seconds later the entire couch is consumed by flames. It jumps to the lamp and the end table. And now I'm having a hard time breathing — the black smoke has slithered into my throat, and even though this is a highly controlled lab, I feel a quick shard of fear. Smoke does that to you.
Two minutes and twenty seconds: the chair is on fire.
Two minutes and forty seconds: the coffee table is on fire.
Like an idiot I'm still standing in the room, and now the roof is on fire.
"Should we leave?!" I ask Drengenberg, hoping that my voice doesn't sound completely panicked.
"Yeah, let's get out of here," he says, nodding.
We both sprint through the doorway ... and the modern room is now a heap of ashes.
So for those of you scoring at home: It took less than three minutes for the modern room to burn, and thirty minutes for that old room. It turns out this isn't an aberration. Research shows that in the 1980s, you had an average of seventeen minutes to escape a burning home. Today? Only three to four minutes. One big reason is synthetic fiber, explains Drengenberg. "It's the way homes are furnished today. There's no getting away from that."
This feels so profoundly unfair. As civilization marches forward and technology improves, we like to imagine that things get better with time. Computers are faster. Cars are safer. Yet, when it comes to our homes and fire safety, things have actually taken a step backward.
So why build furniture with flammable synthetics? Yep, it's cheaper. Cheaper for the manufacturer and, therefore, cheaper for us to buy. There's not as much real wood. It's stuff that looks like wood. So we're all part of the problem. We demand more affordable furniture, and the industry has given us what we want. (But is asking for affordable, nonflammable furniture really too much to ask?)
The one silver lining is that, according to the National Association of Home Builders, the new building codes actually make the houses safer overall, when you consider other risk factors such as the chance of collapse. And the American Home Furnishings Alliance, aware of the problem, supports a federal flammability standard for upholstered furniture ... but only if the product changes are safe, effective, and affordable.
I wish I could tell you to avoid synthetic furniture and bedding altogether, but that's nearly impossible, as it's everywhere. So there are two key takeaways:
1) If a fire strikes, don't dawdle. "When your smoke alarm goes off you don't have time to look around to get your wedding pictures," advises Drengenberg. Get out quick.
2) Stick to your fire escape plan.
You have a fire escape plan, right? That leads us to ...
You Probably Don't Have a Fire Escape Plan
Every few months, the fire marshal comes to my office at 30 Rock to give the obligatory fire-safety speech. Some real talk: I've been the guy falling asleep during this speech. Most of us have. I used to zone out and think about my next meeting, or my kid's upcoming birthday, or fantasize about that second cup of coffee.
It's human nature. Most of us don't really take "fire safety" seriously until it's far too late. The numbers back this up: a whopping 82 percent of families have never practiced a fire-safety drill, and 52 percent have never even discussed fire safety with their kids. Most of us think, "I know my house, I could get out in an emergency." After all, I get up to go to the bathroom in the pitch-black. I can do it with my eyes closed. So, it seems simple, right? Step 1. Look for the flames. Step 2. Run in the opposite direction.
Excerpted from "Rossen to the Rescue"
Copyright © 2017 Jeff Rossen.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. PROTECTING YOUR HOME
2. TRAVEL DANGERS REVEALED
3. WTF, I TRUSTED YOU!
4. IT'S ALL FUN AND GAMES...UNTIL...
5. PROTECTING YOUR KIDS
6. VACATION UNDERCOVER
7. EVERYDAY LIFE HACKS
8. BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW...
9. A SHOCKING CONCLUSION
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I could not get through this book with the trying to hard humor