How to protect yourself from hurricane repair scams.

Homeowners affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey have already absorbed a body blow from damaged homes and lost possessions.

Now, they’re bracing for another: repair scams.

After weather calamities, fraudsters — also known as “storm chasers” — exploit the severe strain on insurance companies. In affected cities, like Houston, due to the extent of damage, insurers have had to recruit independent claims adjusters, some from out of state. This gives scammers an opportunity to sell themselves to unsuspecting homeowners.

The overall bill will be steep: The cost of Irma and Harvey will range between $150 billion to $200 billion, including property damage and lost output.

While filing insurance claims, consumers should keep detailed records of communications, and be wary of potential scammers.

“If you find yourself in a situation where you signed the dotted line without checking with your insurance company first, give them a call,” Chris Hackett, senior director at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told CNBC.

Government assistance is available

In the meantime, government agencies are stepping in. U.S. attorneys in four Florida districts have formed fraud task forces. The National Center for Disaster Fraud, formed in response to Hurricane Katrina, also has a hotline.

Also in Florida, the nonprofit Citizens Property United, which provides insurance for homeowners who can’t obtain private coverage, has warned policyholders to “be wary of unlicensed contractors or deals that sound too good to be true.”

Other organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, make public consumers’ accounts of scams. Victims of fraud are encouraged to report incidents, too.

“It’s terrible that there are people who will take advantage of storm victims, but we see it all the time at BBB,” said spokeswoman Katherine Hutt. “Storm victims need to protect themselves and be vigilant.”

“If someone shows up at your house unannounced and claims to be an insurance adjuster, do not invite them into your home. Ask for company ID. If they don’t have any, ask them to leave your property and shut the door,” Hutt said. “If they do have identification, call your insurance company to verify. Don’t give them any information until you’ve confirmed their identity, and never give them any money.”

Beware that phony insurance adjusters and contractor scammers will frequently insert themselves between homeowners and insurance companies, according to Angie Hicks, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Angie’s List, a home-services consumer-review site.

For homeowners, here are some precautions to take:

  1. File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible.
  2. Document the destruction. Take detailed, interior and exterior photos of your home, said Hicks.
  3. Don’t hire just any contractor or adjuster. “The first impulse might be to hire the first contractor who comes along,” Hackett said. Ask for proof of identity, Hicks said.
  4. Pay via credit card or check to create a paper trail. No cash.
  5. Pay for repairs incrementally. “Don’t pay for all work upfront before work begins,” Hackett said.
  6. Do your homework. Research consumer-review sites. Consult with trustworthy people — family, friends, neighbors — before hiring a contractor.
  7. Get several estimates on the cost of damages.
  8. Continue to pay your mortgage. Doing so protects your credit score and helps you avoid defaulting on a loan. Also ask your insurance agent and bank to explain what’s covered versus what’s negotiable. “These are extenuating circumstances, so ask for leeway on what is most important to you; the worst they can say is no,” Hicks said.
  9. Try to limit further damage. “Protect or repair what you can, but keep all receipts for materials to give to your adjuster,” Hicks said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natalie Daher. “How to protect yourself from hurricane repair scams.” Web blog post. Personal Finance, CNBC. 20 Sep 2017. 26 Sep 2017. 

How To Save Water At Home.

A dripping faucet or a pipe with a slow leak may seem harmless, but even small amounts of wasted water can quickly become expensive problems. Save yourself money and head-aches by learning how to stop water leaks—and possible damage—before they start.

It flows from faucets, fills washing machines, collects in gutters and runs down drains. When it’s unseen or unwelcomed, however, water can turn disastrous. Leaks in American homes waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually. Your home may seem water-tight, but there’s a 1 in 10 chance it hides a leak that spews 90 gallons or more every day. That’s like throwing at least $50 per year down the drain. And a small leak left unchecked can turn into a pool that causes serious problems. Excess moisture can destroy furniture, carpeting, walls and more.

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According to State Farm® records, the average cost of a water damage claim in 2015 was $11,013, and that price tag can skyrocket when the home also experiences structural damage. Undetected water can also pose a health risk by encouraging the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria. Hiding behind walls, it can exacerbate allergies or asthma and cause respiratory problems in healthy family members.

Luckily, it’s easy to correct most common sources of water seepage. Quickly replacing a worn toilet flapper or fixing a dripping faucet, for example, can save you about 10 percent on your water bill and could help prevent more serious problems.

Here are some ways to limit wasted water and help ensure your home is ship-shape.

Pipe Dream

Indoor plumbing is one of civilization’s great innovations, but it’s not flawless. The pipes that deliver water are common sources of leaks. The risk increases with age because pipework joints can degrade with time. Homes older than 30 years are three times more likely than newer homes to have plumbing problems. Common causes of leaky pipes are:

  • Rust or corrosion of galvanized steel pipes or of the metal joints and connections of newer PVC or copper piping
  • Too much water pressure; fixtures and appliance hoses can withstand only so much before faltering
  • Cracked or broken pipes and hoses, which can happen with age, pressure or freezing

To avoid these problems, replace galvanized pipes with plastic if possible, and hire a plumber every few years to inspect your pipes for rust. If your home has a water-pressure regulator, adjust it or hire a plumber to address pressure problems. Finally, insulate exposed pipes and those in the attic and basement. Once a pipe springs a leak, it’s best to have a professional repair it. One telltale sign of a leak is decreased or inconsistent water pressure. If you notice such problems with your faucets, call a plumber.

Play Detective

When you picture water damage, you may imagine a flooded basement or a waterfall pouring from a toilet. But most problems don’t start with giant splashes; more common is a slow leak that goes unnoticed until the damage is done. Early intervention is key. Waiting too long inflates your utility bill and allows water to build to a destructive point that can result in costly restoration expenses. How do you know if your home hides water leaks?

  • Check Your Water Bill: Review usage amounts during the coldest months. A household of four using more than 12,000 gallons per month probably has some serious leaks.
  • Call Your Water Company: Ask whether your utility provider has a leak detection program that alerts homeowners of unusually high water usage. If so, find out how the system works, so you can take appropriate action.
  • Conduct a Meter Check: Record your water meter reading; then turn off all water inside and outside your home, and make sure no one uses anything that requires water for two hours. Record the reading again; if it’s up, it’s likely there’s a leak. These procedures can help identify the presence of leaks, but they don’t tell you their locations. That requires further investigation, starting with examining the most common culprits—pipes, appliances, toilets, faucets and the home’s exterior.

On Alert

As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Help protect your home from water damage by using water leak alarms in several strategic locations.

These sensors can detect water in hard-to-see areas; an alarm sounds for little as one-sixteenth of an inch of water. Basic battery-operated detectors typically cost $5 to $10. Other models, for about $35, connect to smart-home systems such as Iris, Wink and SmartThings. Use the alarms under or near toilets, sinks, refrigerators with icemakers, dishwashers, washing machines, water heaters, sump pump pits, whole-house humidifiers, window air-conditioning units, and any areas that leaked previously.

Rise of the Machines

Many appliances and mechanical systems use a lot of water. When they have problems, they can leak and cause costly damage. Routine maintenance can help!

  • Dishwasher: If a hose leaks or bursts, it can quickly flood your kitchen with gallons of water. The problem is most common with rubber hoses; $20 replaces these with sturdier, steel-braided options.
  • Washing Machine: Half of leaks result from burst water supply lines, which can loosen with vibration and degrade over time. Check your hoses frequently for cracks and kinks, and replace them every three to five years as part of a proactive maintenance program.
  • Refrigerator: Almost three-fourths of leaks happen because of a failed plastic hose that connects the icemaker to the water line. Check the hose every six months, and replace it if it’s discolored or cracked.
  • Water Heater: Three out of four fail before age 12. Protect yours by flushing the tank every six months. Check annually for corrosion, leaks and a bulging tank. Have a professional check the anode rods for rust every two years.
  • Whole-House Humidifier: If the refill valve in a humidifier fails, water can leak directly into your sewer. Inspect the equipment frequently during the heating season, and turn off its water supply when not in use.

Toilet Troubles

Considering how often we use them, it’s not surprising that toilets are common sources of leaks. In fact, more than a third of all residential toilets have at least small leaks. Even worse, water damage from toilets averaged $14,891 in homeowner claims, according to State Farm records.

Finding most toilet leaks is easy. Ten minutes after flushing, remove the tank cover. If the water level is at the top of the overflow tube, you have a leak.

Another way to check: Put several drops of food coloring in the tank; if the color appears in the bowl within 10 minutes, there’s a leak. If the toilet valve makes a semi-regular or constant hissing or gurgling sound, there’s likely a large leak.

Some toilet leaks are easy to fix, while others require skilled professionals. Before hiring help, try replacing the flapper valve. Often a worn or warped rubber flapper with a bad seal is the source of problems. Swapping out this $5 part is so easy, most homeowners can tackle it themselves. If a new flapper valve doesn’t stop the leak, call a plumber. The problem could be a broken part, such as the refill valve or a loose gasket or bolt.

Most issues can be fixed at little expense. If the problem is a cracked tank or bowl, however, the only solution is replacing the entire toilet. When replacement is necessary, consider investing in a WaterSense-labeled model. This third-party certification means the toilet uses 20 percent less water than the federal standard. For as little as $80, the toilet may save the average family nearly $2,400 in water and waste bills over its lifetime.

Faulty Faucets

The drip-drop of a leaky faucet or showerhead is more than a nuisance. Just one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water per year. And the average repair bill for water damage from a leaky sink is $7,000, according to State Farm records.

Faucets have many moving parts that can degrade, making leaks commonplace with enough time. There are four basic types of faucets, and each is repaired slightly differently. To stop a slow leak, first replace worn inside fittings (washers, gaskets, O-rings, cartridges and ceramic discs) and make sure they are secured tightly. You can likely find a tutorial online.

It’s also a good idea to remove mineral buildup in the aerator once a year by taking it out and soaking it in vinegar. If those steps don’t resolve the problem, hire a plumber.

Remember also to inspect faucets in your bathtub or shower, on the water heater, in laundry basins and utility sinks, as well as your home’s exterior.

Showerheads also can cause water issues, but fixing a leak is often as simple as using Teflon tape and a wrench to tighten the connection between the pipe stem and the showerhead. Replacing the washer or O-ring inside the showerhead may also do the trick. As with a faucet, it’s also wise to remove the showerhead annually and soak it in vinegar.

Leaks that aren’t resolved by these tricks may be caused by valves or other parts that a licensed plumber should tackle.

Look Outside

Sometimes water seeping in from outside can cause damage inside. When you search for the source of a leak, walk around your home to examine these possible offenders:

  • Water Supply Line: If there’s no rain but you find wet soil where the water line enters your home, there may be a leak in the line that runs between the meter and your home. The water utility should inspect the line and determine responsibility.
  • Sewer: Tree roots can invade and block drain lines, causing problematic (and smelly) sewer backups. Flush an enzyme drain treatment down the toilet each month in spring and summer. If this doesn’t help, hire a plumber to video-snake the system to look for problems.
  • Foundation: As your home settles, the shifting foundation can cause pipes to detach from each other and create leaks inside your walls. Check your walls frequently, especially those in the basement, and call a plumber if you find wet spots or cracks larger than one-sixteenth of an inch
  • Roof: Water stains in the attic or on the ceiling and upper walls may indicate a roof in need of repair. Roof leaks are most common in areas that get frequent hail, freezing temperatures or severe wind. Hire a roofing pro each spring—or after a major storm—to inspect your shingles and make necessary repairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “How To Save Water At Home” Web blog post. Simple Insights, State Farm. 22 Sep 2017.

 

Removing Water From Your Home After A Flood.

Making a Flooded House into a Livable Home Again

House floods are terrible, catastrophic, and unfortunately, common in many parts of the world. The destructive power of water is amazing to behold from afar, but when it starts inching its way up to your doorstep or in though the basement, that same water becomes your nightmarish reality.

Flooded House

After the flood waters have receded, trying to pick up the pieces may seem daunting, but if you follow the right steps and put in some hard work, it’s not that hard to make your home liveable again. Here’s our guide to removing water from your home, and making it livable again.

Flood Water Contact Rules

Rule Number One: You should always assume that flood water is contaminated. This means that you need to wear appropriate gear when cleaning up your home and follow strict guidelines of how to deal with items that have come into contact with the water. Some of the most important rules to follow are:

  • Wear waterproof boots or waders and gloves.
  • Throw away any food (including canned goods) that have been in contact with flood water.
  • Disinfect after clearing away remaining water.
  • Clean and protect any bodily cuts.
  • Keep children and senior citizens away from flood water.
  • Bury any fecal matter you discover immediately.
  • Wash your hand thoroughly with soap before eating anything or touching your eyes and mouth.

Removing Flood Water from a Home

The first step when recovering from a flood is removing remaining water that is left inside your home. This can be done with a shop-vac or water pump that is specifically designed to suck up water, or it can be done the old-fashioned way with buckets. The key here is to get as much standing water out of your home as quickly you can.

If you decide to use a shop-vac, make sure you thoroughly read the instruction manual as you may need to remove the filter prior to use.

Maintaining a Drainage Environment

Although a flood will saturate a city or town’s drainage capacity, it will not be long before the infrastructure is capable of draining away remaining water. In order to utilize this, make sure that your home’s drains are clear of debris and that the water in and around your foundation has a clear path to the city sewage systems.

Additionally, it would be wise to make sure the street-gutters near your home are not blocked with debris. It’s very common for leaves and trash to accumulate around your drainage system in your street, preventing excessive amounts of water from draining in an efficient manner. If you keep this area clear of debris, the water will recede at a quicker pace.

Drying Out Your Home

Once all of the standing water has receded or been removed, you can begin the process of drying out your house and your possessions. Anything that can be removed from the house to dry in the sun (as long as it is not raining, obviously) should be removed immediately and set outside. If it is dry you should also open all of your home’s windows and doors to let the trapped moisture escape. It would also be wise to invest in an indoor dehumidifier to remove the evaporating moisture from your home.

A dehumidifier is the best tool you can use for this, but it would also be wise to put a couple of fans in the area to help speed up the drying process. The circulating air will help the drying process.

Looking for Trapped Mud or Water

Completely removing all trapped moisture will prevent mold and decay from causing serious problems for your home down the road. This is much easier said than done as you must remove baseboards, shower trays, and anything that has space beneath or behind it. Remove the mud you find and begin drying these areas immediately. Before replacing the fixtures, these spaces need to be completely dry.

The Risks of Allowing Trapped Moisture to Linger in Your Home

When looking at the flood waters bearing down on your home, the risks of floods are immediately apparent, but you might not be aware of how dangerous it is to let even a little moisture trapped in your home. Some of the risks of trapped water include:

  • Compromised Structural Integrity:

    Moisture locked in flooded home supports can cause the wood to rot, weakening its ability to hold up the weight of your house.

  • Illness Inducing Mold:

    Some molds can be deadly if they are left to grow in your home for too long. It is only after the surfaces of your house are completely dried that you can begin to bleach and clean up mold. If there is remaining moisture, mold will continue to grow.

  • Severely Depreciated Home Value:

    Although a flood will almost always make your house less valuable, you can minimize the loss by properly cleaning and drying out your home after a flood. If a prospective buyer finds that trapped water has created hazardous living conditions, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to sell your home when you wish to or for anywhere close to your asking price.

Home Sweet (and Dry) Home Again

By following the right steps, removing flood water from your home is easier than many people think. With the proper equipment, including a dehumidifier and water pump, you can make your home ready to live in even after something as terrible as a flood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Flowers. How to Remove Water From Your Home After A flood. Web blog post.  Learning Center, Compact Appliance. 5 Feb 2014. 18 Sep 2017

Returning Home After A Hurricane.

Preparing to return home after evacuating will keep you safer while inspecting and cleaning up the damage to your home. Before traveling, ensure local officials have declared that it’s safe to enter your community and that you have the supplies you will need. Follow the suggestions below for returning to, inspecting and cleaning your home.

Image result for after a hurricane

(Photo: Survival Life )

Before Returning

  • Find out if it is safe to enter your community or neighborhood. Follow the advice of your local authorities.
  • Carry plenty of cash. ATMs may not work and stores may not be able to accept credit or debit cards.
  • Bring supplies such as flashlights, batteries, bottled water and non- perishable foods in case utilities are out.
  • Create back-up communication plans with family and friends in case you are unable to call from affected areas.
  • Plan for delays when traveling. Bring extra food, water, pillows, blankets and other items that will make the trip more comfortable. Keep the fuel tank of your vehicle as full as possible in case gas stations are crowded, out of fuel or closed.
  • Carry a map to help you route around heavy traffic or impassable roads.
  • Find out if local medical facilities are open and if emergency services are functioning again. Do NOT call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number to do this.
  • Understand that recovery takes time. Focus on the positive and have patience. Others will have similar frustrations.

First Inspection

  • If possible, leave children and pets with a relative or friend. If not, keep them away from hazards and floodwater.
  • Beware of snakes, insects and other animals that may be in or around your home.
  • Before entering your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines, foundation cracks and other exterior damage. It may be too dangerous to enter the home.
  • If you smell natural gas or propane, or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and contact the fire department.
  • If your home was flooded, assume it is contaminated with mold. Mold increases health risks for those with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions.
  • Open doors and windows. If the house was closed more than 48 hours, let it air it out before staying inside for any length of time.
  • Turn the main electrical power and water systems off until you or a professional can ensure that they are safe. NEVER turn the power on or off, or use an electrical tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Check the ceiling and floor for signs of sagging. Water may be trapped in the ceiling or floors may be unsafe to walk on.

Cleaning Your Home

  • Be careful when moving furnishings or debris, because they may be waterlogged and heavier.
  • Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud, including canned goods and containers with food or liquid that have been sealed shut. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Some cleaning solutions can cause toxic fumes and other hazards if mixed together. If you smell a strong odor or your eyes water from the fumes or mixed chemicals, open a window and get out of your home.
  • Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected (mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby toys).
  • Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood waters.
  • Clean hard surfaces (flooring, countertops and appliances) thoroughly with hot water and soap or a detergent.
  • Return to as many personal and family routines as possible.
  • Caution: Carbon Monoxide Kills
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.

Items to Take When Returning Home:

  • Government-issued photo ID and proof of address
  • Important phone numbers
  • Bottled water and non-perishable foods
  • First aid kit
  • Cleanser/hand cleaning gel for personal use
  • Hygiene products and toilet paper
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sturdy waterproof boots and work gloves
    Flashlight, portable radio and extra batteries
  • Cameras for photos of damage for insurance claims

Using Generators Safely

  • When using a portable generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a portable generator to a home’s electrical system.
  • If you are considering getting a generator, get advice from a professional, such as an electrician. Make sure that the generator you purchase is rated for the power that you think you will need.
  • Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.

Let Your Family Know You’re Safe

If your community has experienced a flood, or any disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through RedCross.org to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET- INFO to register yourself and your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Red Cross. “Returning Home After a Hurricane or Flood” Web blog post. Hurricane Central, The Weather Channel. 19 Sep 2014. 13 Sep 2017

Clean Up Safely After A Disaster

Highlights

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures that have not been examined and certified by an inspector.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole cleanup work.
  • Carbon monoxide can cause illness and death.
  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected.
  • Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.

When returning to your home after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster protect yourself and your family by following these tips.

 

Reentering Buildings

  • Stay away from damaged buildings or structures until they have been examined and certified as safe by a building inspector or other government authority. You may want to wait to return to buildings during daylight hours, when it is easier to avoid hazards, particularly if the electricity is off and you have no lights.
  • Leave immediately if you hear shifting or unusual noises that signal that the structure may fall or if you smell gas or suspect a leak. If you smell gas, notify emergency authorities and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke, or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.
  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

General Safety Measures

  • Have at least two fire extinguishers, each with a UL rating of at least 10A, at every cleanup job.
  • Wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank) for cleanup work.
  • Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise.
  • Use teams of two or more people to move bulky objects. Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person).
  • When using a chain saw, operate the saw according to the manufacturer’s instructions, wear appropriate protective equipment, avoid contact with power lines, be sure that bystanders are at a safe distance, and take extra care in cutting trees or branches that have gotten bent or caught under another object. Use extreme caution to avoid electrical shock when using an electric chain saw. For tips on safely operating a chain saw, see Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/chainsaws.html).
  • If there has been a backflow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of the affected area.
  • In hot weather, try to stay cool by staying in air-conditioned buildings, taking breaks in shaded areas or in cool rooms, drinking water and nonalcoholic fluids often, and wearing light and loose-fitting clothing. Do outdoor activities during cooler hours. For more information on protecting yourself against heat-related illness, see the CDC Extreme Heat Web site(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html).

Carbon Monoxide Exposure

  • Never use generators, pressure washers, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, or camper—or even outside near an open window, door, or vent. Carbon monoxide—an odorless, colorless gas from these sources that can cause sudden illness and death—can build up indoors and poison the people and animals inside.

For more information, see Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/carbonmonoxide.html).

 

Mold and Cleanup

  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

See Mold After a Disaster(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/mold/), Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters and the CDC Flood Web site(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/index.html) for further guidance on safely reentering flooded homes, cleaning up flood or storm water, worker safety issues, and mold cleanup issues.

Electrical Issues

  • If electrical circuits and electrical equipment have gotten wet or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. If you must enter standing water to access the main power switch, then call an electrician to turn it off.
  • Never turn power on or off or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • Do not connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices. If a generator is on line when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard and it may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area.

 

Hazardous Materials Issues

  • Call the fire department to inspect or remove chemicals, propane tanks, and other dangerous materials.
  • Wear protective clothing and gear (for example, a respirator if needed) when handling hazardous materials.
  • Wash skin that may have come in contact with hazardous materials.
  • Wear insulated gloves and use caution if you have to remove a car battery. Avoid any acid that may have leaked from a car battery.

 

Hygiene and Infectious Disease Issues

  • After completing the cleanup, wash with soap and water. If there is a boil-water advisory in effect, use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing). Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of 1/8 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that were exposed to floodwater, wash them with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

Water Issues

  • If the building is flooded, the waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems and agricultural and industrial waste. Although skin contact with floodwater does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk, there is risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with floodwater.
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and applying an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection. (See also Clean Hands Save Lives: Emergency Situations(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/handhygienefacts.html) .)
  • To reduce cold–related risks when standing or working in water which is cooler than 75 degrees F (24 degrees C), wear insulated clothes and insulated rubber boots, take frequent breaks out of the water, and change into dry clothing when possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Fact Sheet: Clean Up Safely After a Disaster” Web blog post. Disasters, Clean up. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. 30 Aug 2017, 12 Sep 2017.

Before A Hurricane Hits.

Following a hurricane evacuation plan helps keep you and your family safe. Protect the property you leave behind with these hurricane preparation tips:

Reinforce the structure

Before a hurricane hits, add strength to the structure of your home to help prevent wind and water damage.

·         Help prevent broken windows. But don’t tape them. Instead, install impact-resistant permanent storm shutters for the best protection during a hurricane. If those are not an option, add permanent fasteners to windows so protective plywood panels can quickly be put in place.

·         Brace the roof. Follow instructions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for installing braces at the gables or through the trusses of the roof. Attach hurricane clips at the studs and rafters. Use polyurethane sealant and stainless steel screws to secure soffits to the walls and fascia.

·         Keep shingles secure. Ask a roofing professional to set extra roofing cement under shingles to keep them in place during a hurricane.

·         Waterproof the basement. Fill cracks with hydraulic cement, and coat walls with waterproof masonry cement.

·         Protect the garage. Retrofit garage doors with vertical boards, install hurricane-resistant garage doors or use a steel bracing kit to support the door against wind pressure.

·         Avoid damage to doors. Ensure all entry doors have three hinges and a dead bolt lock with at least a one-inch bolt throw length.

·         Seal small openings. Add caulk to any cracks or holes where cables, pipes or wires enter your home.

Image result for house prepared for hurricane

Remove excess from the exterior

·         Store any non-secure items or non-structural elements from around your property, such as:

·         Patio furniture

·         Grills

·         Garbage bins

·         Porch swings

·         Landscaping ornaments, such as sculptures or bird baths

·         If you own a boat, follow these tips to protect it during a hurricane

Protect against extreme conditions

Be prepared for any situation.

·         Trim trees and bushes to make them more wind resistant.

·         Clear gutters of any debris so water can flow freely.

·         Apply sealant around windows and doors.

·         Consider flood or wind insurance to help you recover from hurricane damage.

·         Protect utilities ” such as your furnace and electrical panel ” by turning them off right before you evacuate. If possible, move utilities to the second level of your home.

·         Unplug electronics before you leave.

·         When preparing your home for extreme weather, it’s also important to review your insurance coverage, create or update your home inventory and plan your evacuation route. Find more hurricane safety tips here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Follow This Hurricane Evacuation Plan” Web blog post. Simple Insights: Safety. State Farm Insurance. 7 Sep 2017.

 

How To Prepare An Emergency Kit.

Hurricane Irma could hit the United States by this weekend, meaning now is the time for coastal residents — along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico — to prepare.

Irma strengthened to a Category 5 storm Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, with sustained winds of 175 mph.

AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Samuhel issued a warning on Monday: “Have emergency supplies ready.”

Here’s what to pack in an emergency kit and additional steps to take ahead of a hurricane, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Emergency kits should combine basic staples (food, water) with supplies reflecting your family’s unique needs, such medications or baby formula.

Water: First and foremost, store at least three gallons of water per person — enough to last each three days. If you think you’ll be cut off longer, add an extra gallon per person per day.

Cash: Banks and ATMs could shut down. Power outages render debit and credit cards useless.

Documents: Keep copies of key documents in a waterproof, easy-to-carry container. These include identification such as passports and Social Security cards as well as insurance policies and bank account records.

Medications: Keep a one-week supply of prescription medications plus any over-the-counter items like pain relievers and antacids.

Food: Lay in a three-day supply of canned foods and dry mixes — nothing that needs refrigeration. Avoid thirst-inducing foods, and remember the dietary needs of those around you, including infants (ready-to-feed formula) and pets. Secure a hand-operated can opener.

Sanitation: Think moist towelettes, garbage bags and diapers. Consider paper goods such as plates and cups as well as plastic utensils.

Backup phone batteries: Extra batteries for your devices, also called portable power banks, could prove essential in a power outage. Here’s how to prep your smartphone for disasters.

Additional items: Flashlights with spare batteries, blankets, a first aid kid and NOAA weather radios are all recommended.

FEMA offers an extensive printable checklist for all-purpose emergency supply kits, too.

The agency also recommends tailoring supplies to whether you plan to evacuate or stay put at home, and to sign up for local alerts (just Google your city or country name plus “alerts”).

 

 

 

Josh Hafner, USA TODAY. Hurricane Irma: How to prepare an emergency kit. web blog post. News, USA Today. 5 Sep. 2017

Steps to Create a Home Inventory Checklist

After a fire, burglary or another event in which you lost possessions from your home, it may be difficult to remember the details of every one of the belongings that you have accumulated over the years. In this situation, having a current inventory of your possessions, including make and model numbers, may help you with any potential insurance claims. Taking the time to document your belongings now can help you recover faster after a loss.

Here are some steps you can use to help build your home inventory checklist.

Step 1: Take the Time to Walk Through Your Property. Compiling a comprehensive home inventory takes time and effort. The more detailed your inventory, the more useful it will be if you have to make a claim. Document possessions inside your home and on your property that may be of value.

Step 2: Keep Your Inventory in a Safe Place. Creating a digital home inventory and storing it off-site will help ensure that it won’t be lost, stolen or damaged during any disaster at your home. You can also create a photo or video inventory and upload it to a cloud-based service.

  • First, take a picture of relevant rooms or items. Label pictures of rooms and important individual items with a description, including where you bought it and the make, model and serial number. Don’t forget to inventory items that may be out of sight in storage closets or drawers.
  • Second, walk through your home or office using your phone to shoot video of the contents, describing them as you go.
  • Finally, digital home inventory programs allow you to upload multiple photos of each item, including photos of the serial number, receipt and other identifying details. If you choose to create a paper version, consider storing it off-site in a safe deposit box.

Step 3: Update Your Inventory Often. When you make a significant purchase, add the information to the inventory while the details are fresh in your mind. This is also a good time to delete items that you have replaced or no longer own.

Step 4: Remember Your Business Assets. While most people think of their home when making an inventory, it is important to document the contents of your business, if applicable, as well.

Step 5: Consider Valuable Items. Valuable items like jewelry, art, and collectibles may have increased in value since you brought them into your home. Check with your agent, if you have one, to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage for these items as they may need to be insured separately. Consider putting jewelry or other valuables that you don’t often wear or use in a safe deposit box.

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “5 Steps to Create a Home Inventory Checklist.” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent. Travelers Insurance. 25 Aug 2017.

Help Prevent House Fires.

Faulty Wiring and Outlets Are One of the Top Causes of House Fires.

  • Check the electrical cords throughout your home for signs of fraying, and replace all frayed wires.
  • Do not pinch or cover electrical cords with items such as rugs.
  • Be aware of the capacity of your home’s electrical system. Do not overload your circuits. If you have questions about your home’s electrical system, you may want to consult a licensed electrician.
  • Understand the difference between surge protectors and power strips—both allow you to plug in multiple electronic devices, but only the surge protector will help protect these devices from a power spike. Use surge protectors to protect valuable electronic devices, such as computers and televisions.

Image result for outlet fire

(Photo: Funabashi City)

Carelessness in the Kitchen May Also Lead to a House Fire.

  • Never leave your pots or pans unattended on your stove.
  • Keep a kitchen fire extinguisher readily available and know how to use it.
  • Keep your stove and oven clean. Built up food splatter or grease can later ignite when the stove or oven is turned on for cooking.

Clothes Dryers Are Another Common Source of House Fires.

  • If you are installing your own dryer vent, follow the directions in the manufacturer’s installation instructions, using the recommended duct material. If you are unsure about how to properly install the vent, consider hiring a professional to do the installation.
  • Clean out the dryer vent regularly.
  • Clean out the lint filter after each load.
  • Lint may also collect under and behind your dryer, so do not forget to clean these areas.

Alternative Heating Sources May Also Create a Fire Hazard.

  • Avoid using an older space heater, as it may not have adequate safety features compared to newer units. When purchasing a new space heater, ensure it is UL Listed and pay attention to the safety features.
  • Do not place a space heater near furniture, curtains or other objects that could easily catch fire.
  • If you plan to install an alternative heating system, such as a wood or pellet stove, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you are unsure about how to properly install the system, consider hiring a professional to do the installation.
  • Before installing a wood or pellet stove, check to ensure it complies with the laws of your state and municipality.

Dirty Chimneys Also Pose a Fire Hazard.

  • Have your chimney inspected annually by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA)-certified chimney sweep. Have a professional clean and repair the chimney as needed, especially before the cold months, when you will be using it frequently.
  • Use seasoned wood only. Never burn green or damp wood.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, trash or trees in your fireplace—these can all spark chimney fires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. Help Prevent House Fires. Web blog post, Prepare & Prevent ; Fire Safety. Travelers Insurance. 22 August 2017.

Protecting Your Home From Lighting.

Lightning strikes can be a threat to both property and public safety, causing nearly $1 billion in property damage in the United States each year and claiming dozens of lives.

Lightning strikes homes

Although summer is the most likely time for lightning, it can strike anytime there is a thunderstorm. Lightning generates intense heat that can surge through electronic circuits, burn through plumbing and set structures ablaze, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

In 2014, lightning strikes cost $739 million in homeowners’ insurance losses, up 9.7 percent from 2013. The average lightning property damage claim by homeowners was $7,400 in 2014, up 26 percent from 2013. Florida saw the most homeowner insurance lightning claims in 2014, followed by Georgia and Texas, according to III.

To help prevent lightning from damaging your property, consider using a lightning protection system. These systems are designed to redirect lightning from high points on structures and guide the electrical currents safely to the ground along metal conductors.

You should consider a lightning protection system if:

  • Your home or structure already has experienced a lightning strike.
  • You live in an area that often has thunderstorms.
  • Your structure is located on higher ground or projects above surrounding properties.
  • Your structure contains sensitive electrical equipment. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, most homes today have from $5,000 to as much as $500,000 worth of electrical and electronic equipment inside.

Lightning protection systems should be installed by certified specialists who work within the guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 780 “Standard for Lightning Protection Systems” and the NFPA 70 “National Electric Code.” UL offers a Master Label® certificate as evidence that a lightning protection system is installed in compliance with applicable nationally recognized standards.

The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) recommends that the contractor you hire is listed with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and holds certification with LPI. You can view a list of certified contractors at the LPI website. There is also an online directory for UL Listed lightning protection system installers.

In addition to a lightning protection system, there are other ways to further improve your protection. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recommends having a licensed electrician inspect your telephone, power, electrical and cable/satellite television connections, and ensure your power line connection and power distribution panel are grounded correctly.

Tips for Staying Safe During a Thunderstorm

Since most lightning strikes occur during a thunderstorm, you should take the recommended steps to keep safe. Until the storm has passed, stay away from windows and doors and avoid handling faucets or other plumbing, and do not touch electrical appliances or equipment.

If your home is struck by lightning and you have corrugated stainless steel natural gas tubing present (CSST), there is the potential for the lightning strike to produce gas leaks in the CSST. If there is no smoke, fire or imminent danger from the lightning strike, you should shut off the gas supply and contact the gas company to have them check the piping for leaks.

If someone is struck or otherwise injured by lightning, seek medical help immediately.

If your structure is struck by lightning, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration advises the following recommended steps:

  • Evacuate if you see fire or smoke and telephone 911.
  • Ask firefighters to use thermal imaging equipment to check for hot spots inside walls.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are working.
  • Have a licensed electrician check your structure’s wiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Protecting Your Home From Lighting” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent. Travelers Insurance. 17 August 2017.