January 24 2014

Top 2 Home Fire Reasons In January

Home fires are still a problem. One doesn’t really need statistics to know that. Just read the paper, watch the news or (better yet) just listen to the not-infrequent sounds of fire engines racing down the street. They’re not racing around and making all that noise just to celebrate somebody’s birthday. Home fires still happen and it’s basically for two reasons… bad equipment and bad habits.

“Bad Equipment” refers to equipment and devices that are fire hazards and “Bad Habits” refers to the ways people use these devices that leads to fires. It actually takes both… to create a fire.

Bad Equipment:

When we say ‘bad’ equipment we mean any mechanical or electrical device around the home that either malfunctions or is used incorrectly in such a way as to create a fire hazard and/or start a fire. Here’s some of the most common types of devices that do that.

  • Kitchen fires… start mostly with overheating. The solution is just to ‘watch it’. And don’t forget that cooking oil, although it looks harmless, can become a big problem in just an instant if/when it overheats.
  • Home heating equipment… old furnace systems become a big fire hazard especially when they’re not properly maintenanced. Coal, home heating oil, natural gas or even fully electric systems can malfunction. Space heaters a a huge problem in colder weather. Bottom line? Use these devices properly and keep these thing maintained and in repair.
  • Electrical devices… electrical gadgets are nice but electricity causes fires too. Electrically powered kitchen devices like toasters, toaster ovens, crock pots, electrical stoves, blenders… they’re all nice to have. But just be sure they work correctly are used properly.
  • Candles… yeah. Candles are simply things but they’re very dangerous. We tell kids all the time to ‘don’t play with fire’, but adults do it with candles all the time. Keep lit candles in proper containment devices (i.e. not just sitting on a table surface) and never forget to blow them out when no longer needed.
  • Wiring… ‘electrical living’ is great but over-loaded, improperly designed, improperly maintained, or improperly fused wiring systems very easily can start a home fire. It never hurts to keep a home fire extinguisher near your wiring box.
  • Flammable Liquids… ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ has some truth to it but always be careful of how you use and store flammable liquids. Many common household liquids are highly flammable. So… be careful how you use them and also how you store them.
  • Christmas Trees and Decorations… Everybody loves Christmas and the holiday season but that’s also a season for house fires originating with a Christmas tree. Keep your tree-stand full of water (so the tree doesn’t dry out too fast and become more flammable), keep a fire-extinguisher nearby, don’t ever use lighted candles on a tree and be sure the electrical lights you use are in good condition.
  • Barbeques… Barbecuing is lots of fun but they can start fires too. Most often it’s because they weren’t kept clean and the built-up, combustible material suddenly ‘flammed up’. Also be careful with ‘starter’ fluids and how you regulate the cooking fuel itself… i.e. wood, propane, etc. And of course… keep your eye on the barbeque unit and don’t place it near any other flammable substances.

The second category, ‘Bad Habits’…

This simply refers to the fact that most home fires could have been prevented if people were just paying attention to what they were doing and/or properly used whatever it was that started the fire. Most home equipment and devices have clear instructions and precautions written either on them or on the instructions.

The most common thing that firefighter hears after a fire is, “I should have known better!” Maintenance does sometimes take a little money but it’s a lot cheaper than the possible alternative of burning your house down. The other issue, i.e. that you were probably warned about the danger… well, that’s up to you. An ounce of prevention is worth thousands of dollars of cure, right?

January 12 2014

Top 3 Things To Check To Avoid A Home Flood This January

It used to be that you could pretty well predict where floods were likely to happen. Certain places were prone to it and other places were not. But in recent years the weather pretty much everywhere has been totally crazy and it’s possible to have your home (or business) flooded almost anywhere.

Floods traditionally come from overflowing rivers but they can also come from torrential rains and/or due to moderately heavy rains in areas that have inadequate drainage systems. Any way it happens, excess and unwanted water in the house can really mess up your life. There are some precautions you can take, however, to either prevent flooding or mitigate its effects on or within your home.

First of all…. if you’re building a home, build it on the highest ground possible. Check local weather history, newspaper archives, and with relevant government agencies to find out what the highest water level have ever been in your area and then be sure your home is above that.

This won’t always be possible but it is a possibility if changing weather patterns have caused changes in what constitutes ‘prime’ real-estate. Areas that might not have been desirable years ago might be better choices now.

Secondly, there are two other flood proofing methods for homes that work well for most people and in most instances. One is called Dry Flood proofing and the term basically refers to barriers, usually sandbags, around your house that act as a barrier to keep water out.

There’s a limit to how much water a wall of sandbags will keep out. The strength of your flood barrier depends on the height and depth of your sandbag wall. Obviously, stronger walls require more work… most of which is predominantly manual.

Another type of Dry Flood proofing involves coating the vulnerable parts of your house, such as the exterior walls, the interior walls (up to the expected maximum flood levels) with some kind of water-impervious substance. The idea is that the water won’t go through it so… it stops. One benefit of this type of flood proofing is that it’s a way of letting the water get access to the house but not actually permeate any of its structural parts (like waterproofing the leather on your shoes).

Third as a means of protecting your home from flooding is called wet flood proofing. Wet flood proofing consists of allowing enough water into the home in order to equalize hydrostatic pressure between the inside of the home and the outside (where the water came from). This is a technique, which, in a sense, compromises with the flood waters in order to prevent more serious damage to the house and/or contents.

It presumes that you’ve been able to move furniture and appliances up above or away from where you anticipate the water will be. Allowing some water to come into the come tends to equalize the hydrostatic pressure between the inside and outside of the house. You may or may not have waterproofed your walls and/or floors with some kind of chemical (as mentioned above) but the technique does prevent the home walls from collapsing due to pressure from the water outside.

Obviously, any of these methods are a lot of work and you’re always going to have to contend with signs of the flood in several ways, but again, the primary objective is to prevent or mitigate (i.e. lessen as much as possible) water damage from flooding.
In Summary:

  • Avoid the problem altogether by not living in areas that get flooded
  • Waterproof your home by erecting some sort of barrier to keep water out (e.g. sandbags)
  • Waterproof your home by moving movable property out of harm’s way and then protecting the structural members and elements of the house (e.g. walls) with various types of waterproof coatings.

Those are your options but it’s never a bad idea to discuss such a thing with your insurance person locally and/or with your neighbors who might have more experience than you in such a matter.