Tips For Keeping Valuables Safe

According to the FBI’s latest statistics, property crimes in 2015 resulted in more than $14 billion in losses, and the total value of stolen property, including precious items like jewelry, was more than $12.4 billion. If you own your home, you might be surprised to know that your standard homeowner’s insurance policy won’t necessarily cover the loss of your most expensive possessions.

If you want to completely protect your prized possessions from events like natural disaster, fire, vandalism, or theft, you have two options for increasing your standard insurance coverage and three options to ensure their physical safety:

1. Raise the limit of your home insurance plan’s liability
Increasing your homeowner’s liability limit is the cheapest option available for protecting your valuables. To keep coverage plans affordable, standard homeowner’s insurance typically only covers about $1,500 worth of valuables when it comes to liability for theft.  If you raise that limit, you can protect more value. But the policy may still restrict how much money you can claim per piece. For example, you still may only be able to claim $1,500 on a piece of jewelry even though your overall policy limit is $5,000.

2. “Schedule” your individual items by purchasing additional coverage or “rider” policies
Adding a rider to your homeowner’s policy will provide you with broader coverage, though you may end up paying more in premiums. Riders are add-ons that provide supplementary benefits at an additional cost, and they cover all types of losses, including accidents. While a standard homeowner’s policy wouldn’t cover your diamond ring if you accidentally dropped it down the drain, a rider could.

Riders are also used to cover items whose individual values exceed the standard $1,500 limit that’s typical of homeowner’s insurance. Fine jewelry, art, antiques, sterling silver, firearms and high-end sports equipment (like golf clubs or scuba gear) are typical items covered by insurance riders. Before you take out a rider on any item, you must have it professionally appraised.

3. Store your valuables in places burglars aren’t likely to look.
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), hiding valuables in hollowed-out books, false wall outlets, and even inside house plants can keep thieves from finding them. Avoid the natural inclination to keep pricey or sentimental items in your jewelry box or bedside drawer, because storing these things in obvious places can compromise their safety.

4. Guard against natural disasters.
Your precious items can get damaged in the event of a flood, earthquake, or other natural disaster. Identifying your most valuable pieces and taking simple low-cost and no-cost measures can provide added protection. Start by creating a photographic record of your valuable pieces and store the files in the cloud or on a flash drive outside of your home so you have evidence to give your insurance company in the event of a loss. And if your valuables are stored in the basement, consider moving them to a higher location in your home to prevent possible water damage.

5. Protect your identifying information, too.
If your items are stored in a safe-deposit box, don’t keep identifying information on or near your key (that includes the name of the bank where the box is located, or the box number). If a burglar gets a hold of your keys, he’ll know exactly where your safe-deposit box is.

Pro Tip: Home safes can be great for storing important documents, but they’re not ideal for precious items like jewelry or collector’s items. To keep those as secure as possible, invest in a safe-deposit box at a bank, which offers better protection. However, if you need regular access to certain jewelry, coins, or other valuables, then a home safe may be best. Taking the right preventive measures to safeguard your valuables can spare you from future heartache in the event of a natural disaster, theft, or unforeseen damage. By arming yourself with all the information available, you’ll be empowered to make a decision that eases your mind and keeps your most valued possessions as safe as possible.

Extension Cord Safety

  • Purchase only cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • For outdoor projects, use only extension cords marked for outdoor use.
  • Read the instructions (if available) for information about the cord’s correct use and the amount of power it draws.
  • Select cords that are rated to handle the wattage of the devices with which they’ll be used. A cord’s gauge indicates its size: The smaller the number, the larger the wire and the more electrical current the cord can safely handle.
  • Also consider the length you’ll need. Longer cords can’t handle as much current as shorter cords of the same gauge.
  • Choose cords with polarized or three-prong plugs.
  • For use with larger appliances, thick, round, low-gauge extension cords are best. For smaller appliances and electronics, you can use thin or flat cords.

Using extension cords

  • Never remove an extension cord’s grounding pin in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet.
  • Avoid powering multiple appliances with one cord.
  • Never use indoor extension cords outdoors.
  • Don’t plug multiple cords together.
  • Don’t run extension cords under rugs or furniture.
  • Never tape extension cords to floors or attach them to surfaces with staples or nails.
  • Don’t bend or coil cords when they’re in use.
  • Cover unused cord receptacles with childproof covers.
  • Stop using extension cords that feel hot to the touch.

Caring for extension cords

  • Always store cords indoors.
  • Unplug extension cords when they’re not in use.
  • Throw away damaged cords.
  • Pull the plug—not the cord—when disconnecting from the outlet.

And remember that extension cords are intended as temporary wiring solutions. If you find you’re using them on a permanent basis, consider updating your home’s electrical system.

5 Fire Safety Tips For Your Home

Equipping your home with the right fire safety equipment can help you gain precious seconds in a fire emergency. Be sure your home includes the following equipment, that you (and your family) know how to use it.

What to Include in Your Home Fire Safety Kit

1. Smoke Alarms
The single most important piece of fire safety equipment you can have in your home is a smoke alarm. A properly working smoke alarm can cut your risk of dying in a fire by half.1 Be sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your house, especially outside rooms where family members sleep. Test and clean them with a vacuum every month, and replace the batteries twice a year. And install new smoke alarms every 10 years.

2. Automatic Fire Sprinkler System
It’s important to note that an automatic fire sprinkler system won’t necessarily extinguish every fire that starts in your home. But it will reduce the amount of harmful smoke and gases so you can get out of the house. Some sprinkler systems can also be connected to your alarm system, so it’ll call the fire department if a fire starts.

3. Fire Extinguisher
You should have at least one fire extinguisher in your home. Extinguishers with A-B-C ratings are effective against ignited cloth, wood, paper, rubber, and plastics (A), flammable liquids like gasoline, alcohol and oil-based paints (B), and energized electrical equipment (C).

What to do when using a fire extinguisher:

  • First call the fire department.
  • Use an extinguisher only on small fires with minimal smoke.
  • If you’re dealing with a liquid fire, use the extinguisher only if you can eliminate of the source of fuel. Otherwise, immediately get out of the house.
  • Remember “PASS”: Pull the pin. Aim low. Squeeze. Sweep.
  • If you can’t put out the fire within the eight seconds it takes to empty the extinguisher, take immediate steps to get out safely.

4. Fire Escape Ladders
If you have a two-story (or more) home, you need fire escape ladders in every upstairs bedroom. They come folded into permanent or portable boxes that you can store under a window or bed. During a fire, if all other exits are blocked, you can drop the ladder out of the window and climb down to safety. Fire escape ladders are either 15 feet (for second-story windows) or 25 feet long (third floor).

Pro Tip: Make sure your ladder has a stable standoff, which is the support arm system at the top that holds the ladder away from the side of the house to steadies it and make escape quicker for you.

5. Fireproof Safe
The most valuable of your possessions should be in a safety deposit box at the bank. But if there are certain things you want to protect and also keep close, you need a fireproof safe. Depending on what’s kept in there, you can get a safe that’s guaranteed not to get hotter than 125 degrees (DVDs, computer disks) or 350 degrees (papers). Most fireproof safes offer 30 minutes of protection.

Once you have all of the right fire safety equipment in place, don’t forget to create and practice your home fire escape plan. Having the right fire safety equipment can help reduce your family’s risk of injury and property damage due to a serious fire. Or at the very least, you’ll be warned and have time to get out.

MoldSolutions24-7.com

Washer & Dryer Maintenance

Washers and dryers were involved in one out of every 22 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments between 2006 and 2010. Incidents of clothes dryer fires are higher in the fall and winter months and peak in January, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The leading cause of clothes dryer fires is a failure to clean the dryer of dust, fiber and lint. Lint is highly combustible and can lead to reduced airflow, posing a fire hazard in clothes dryers.Here are several safety tips for properly maintaining your washer and dryer:

Ensure proper installation
Be sure to have your washer and dryer installed and serviced by a professional. Check your washer and dryer manuals to ensure that your electrical outlet is appropriate for your plugs. If you have a gas dryer, have it inspected by a professional to make sure the gas line and connection are working properly and don’t have leaks.

Maintain the lint filter
Always clean the lint filter before drying each load of laundry. If you are drying a new item that creates a lot of lint, such as a bath towel or bath mat, consider drying it for half a cycle and then pause to clean out the lint filter before continuing to dry the item. Regularly check the dryer’s drum for lint accumulation.

Inspect the vent
The dryer vent is located outside of your house. It’s a good idea to periodically check to make sure air is coming out of the vent while clothes are drying. If no air is coming out of the vent, turn off the dryer and inspect the vent for blockage. Accumulated lint, a bird’s nest or even small animals can block vents.

Check the exhaust duct
Make sure the duct that runs from the back of your dryer to your wall and outside to your dryer vent isn’t clogged with lint or debris. If there is a blockage, you may have to remove the duct to clean it out. Consult with a professional before making any changes to your dryer’s exhaust duct.

Basic washer and dryer safety tips
Follow these basic safety tips when using your washer and dryer.

  • Don’t overload.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
  • Don’t run the washer or dryer when you aren’t home or when you are sleeping.
  • Keep the entire area clean and free of clutter, boxes and other materials.
  • Don’t store items on the top of the washer and dryer.
  • Consult the operating instructions prior to washing or drying an item that has been soiled with chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oil or paint.

Biowashing.com

Identifying & Testing Fire Alarms – Part 2

Now that we’ve discussed the types of fire alarms found in many home and small businesses, let’s see how to test them.

How to Test It
You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper method of testing your smoke detector and fire alarm. But, in general, most battery-powered and hardwired smoke detectors can be tested in the following way:

Step 1. Alert family members that you will be testing the alarm. Smoke detectors have a high-pitched alarm that may frighten small children, so you’ll want to let everyone know you plan to test the alarms to help avoid frightening anyone.

Step 2. Station a family member at the furthest point away from the alarm in your home. This can be critical to help make sure the alarm can be heard everywhere in your home. You may want to install extra detectors in areas where the alarm’s sound is low, muffled or weak.

Step 3. Press and hold the test button on the smoke detector. It can take a few seconds to begin, but a loud, ear-piercing siren should emanate from the smoke detector while the button is pressed. If the sound is weak or nonexistent, replace your batteries. If it has been more than six months since you last replaced the batteries (whether your detector is battery-powered or hardwired), change them now regardless of the test result, and test the new batteries one final time to help ensure proper functioning. You should also look at your smoke detector to make sure there’s no dust or other substance blocking its grates, which may prevent it from working even if the batteries are new.

Remember, smoke detectors have a normal life span of 10 years, according to the USFA. Even if you’ve performed regular maintenance, and your device is still functional, you should replace a smoke detector after the 10-year period or earlier, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. Installing smoke detectors can be a great way to help keep your family safe, but assuming they are working may lead to a dangerous situation. Taking a few minutes to check them regularly can help ensure they’re working properly.

Biowashing.com

Taking Home Inventory

As we enter the New Year, it might just be the perfect time to take stock of your material possessions. Did you get a great gift for the holidays? Maybe a diamond ring, a new musical instrument or a beautiful watch? All of these items should be insured, and, just as importantly, added to your home inventory.  If a fire or major water loss should occur in your home, or if you become a victim to thieves, not having these items removed may not get you compensated.

What is a home inventory, you ask? Once created, it will be the most valuable item in your house.

The first step is to make a record of every item in your house that you would want and expect to be covered by your insurance. This list should include your computers, TVs, jewelry, antiques, china, art, furniture, gardening equipment, tools and many other things. Include serial numbers if you have them, and take pictures of each item. Mark down the item’s condition, and how much you paid for it (including a receipt image would be ideal).

Another way to approach this is to create a home inventory video. Videotape all of the valuable items in your home, making sure to zoom in on the smaller items. You should still document, whether by video, in an accompanying report or in a mobile app, their serial numbers and other identifying markers. The more specificity you include, the more likely you’ll be able to get a claim filed quickly, and at the right amount, should anything ever happen to your stuff.

In addition, there are several software programs and apps available to help you create a home inventory. However you choose to make yours, it’s important to back up this information and store a copy outside your home, just in case your home is severely damaged.

This is an opportunity to learn the real value of your items, especially art and jewelry, and serves as a reminder to get them appraised often. The value of these types of items can go up over time, so you should also make sure they are insured for the right amount. Be sure to check with your independent agent that your policy covers all your belongings, even the most personal and valuable items.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

A fire is a fire, and a fire extinguisher is a fire extinguisher, right? Well, not quite. There are actually different types of fires and different types of extinguishers that respond best to each. So, which is right for you? We’ll get to that, but first let’s look at the five different fire types, as outlined by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association:

  • Class A: Fires in ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth, etc.
  • Class B: Fires in flammable liquids, like gasoline, or flammable gasses, such as propane.
  • Class C: Fires in energized electrical equipment, such as appliances or motors.
  • Class D: Fires in combustible metals.
  • Class K: Fires in cooking oils and greases, such as animal and vegetable fats.

Selecting a Fire Extinguisher

For each fire class, there’s a fire extinguisher to match, and it’s important to use the right one. For example, an extinguisher rated for Class B fires only might not be appropriate to use on another fire. In fact, it might even be dangerous. So, how do you pick a fire extinguisher? Do you need several? A good bet is a multipurpose extinguisher, which typically is rated for Class A, B and C fires and available at home improvement stores. This type of extinguisher is typically good for general living areas and will work on small grease fires, as well. Specialized kitchen extinguishers are available, too. (Note: Class K extinguishers are typically for large commercial kitchens.)

No matter which type you choose, you want:

  • An extinguisher that’s large enough to put out a small fire but not too heavy to handle safely.
  • One that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • One for each level of your home, as well as in the garage.

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Before you use a fire extinguisher — or try to fight a fire with any method — make sure you consider the following questions:

  • Is the fire small and contained?
  • Are you safe from toxic smoke?
  • Do you have a way to escape?
  • Do your instincts tell you it’s OK?

If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, the National Fire Protection Association recommends remembering “P.A.S.S.” when it’s time to use your extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever.
  • Sweep the hose from side to side. Once the fire is out, remain aware, because it can re-ignite.

Maintaining a Fire Extinguisher

It’s easy to just put an extinguisher in your kitchen cabinet and forget about it. But, by doing that, you run the risk of it not working when you need it most. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, some need to be shaken monthly, and others need to be pressure tested periodically. Follow the instructions on your specific extinguisher. Also, check regularly to make sure it’s not damaged, rusted or dirty.

Remember, a fire extinguisher won’t do you any good if it doesn’t work, and it won’t help if you can’t get to it, either. So, ensure it’s in an accessible place, not buried in the back of a closet. Finally, don’t ever forget that sometimes your best bet is not using an extinguisher at all. It’s using your family escape plan to get you and your loved ones out of danger. If there’s any doubt, get out!

Biowashing.com