Spring Home Safety Checklist
David Sanor, Sanor Insurance Agency, Inc.
Spring is officially here! The time of year when birds start singing, flowers poke their heads up and trees start getting their leaves. It’s also the time of year when people start clearing out the accumulation of winter clutter. As you go about your spring cleaning chores, take the opportunity to make sure your home is safe and secure as well. Use the following Spring Home Safety Checklist as a guide.
Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Many people change the batteries in their carbon monoxide and smoke detectors when they set their clocks ahead for Daylight Savings. But, if you’re not one of them, now is a good time to get it done.
Flashlight batteries. In many areas springtime means thunderstorms. Make sure all your flashlights have fresh batteries in case the power goes out.
Fire extinguishers. It’s recommended that be inspected every 30 days. So, if it’s been more than 30 days since you inspected the fire extinguishers in your home, now’s a good time to do it. There are 3 questions you should ask yourself during your inspection. 1) Is the extinguisher in the correct location? 2) Is it visible and accessible? 3) Is the gauge or pressure indicator in the green zone?
Light bulbs. Make sure all your light bulbs are the correct wattage for the lamp or socket they’re in. Florescent light bulbs can help save money on your power bill, consider making the switch if you aren’t already using them.
Electrical outlets. You can do an initial inspection yourself by checking for loose fitting outlets. But, you’ll want to have a licensed electrician check for any loose wiring inside the outlets that might pose a fire hazard.
Household chemicals. Go through your cleaning supplies and other household chemicals to check for leaking containers and things you no longer use or need. Be sure to dispose of these hazardous chemicals properly according to the recommendations of your state and/or county.
Medicine cabinets. Take stock of everything in your medicine cabinets and properly dispose of any outdated prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
First aid kits. While you’re checking your medicine cabinets, go a step further and examine your first aid kits. Properly dispose of anything that is outdated and restock things that are running low or depleted.
Child safety locks. Check any existing child safety locks to be sure they’re functioning properly. You may also want to consider other places where they should be installed.
Family emergency plan. Every household should have a family emergency plan in place. Review your plan and rehearse it together at least once a year.
Washer and Dryer. Pull your washer and dryer out and clean underneath each. Check the hoses on your washer for any leaks. Check and clean the dryer hose and exhaust duct, removing any lint, dust and other material.
Major Appliances. Pull other major appliances out as well and clean underneath and behind them. Be sure to clear away any lint or debris from ventilation areas before you return them to their space.
Fireplaces and Woodstoves. Spring is a great time to clean your stove pipes and get them ready for next winter’s use. This way, you’re ready whenever cold weather strikes.
Furnace. Check and replace furnace filters so they’re ready to go next fall as well.
Air Conditioner/Swamp Cooler. Time to maintain that air conditioner or swamp cooler. Check your user’s manual for the proper maintenance procedure for your specific unit.
Windows and Doors. As you’re cleaning your windows, check the locks and screens to make sure they’re in proper working order. Check the locks on all exterior doors as well.
Decks and Patios. Inspect your decks and patios for loose railings and boards as well as raised nails or screws.
Barbecue grill. While you’re on the patio, check the condition of your barbecue grill. If you have a gas grill be sure to check all hoses and connections to make sure there are no leaks. Also make sure the handle on the lid is secure and that the igniter works.
Recreational equipment. Make sure all playground equipment, bikes, skateboards, etc. are in safe working condition before you or your family use them.
Roof and Gutters. Inspect your roof to make sure that it’s in good repair and will stand up against wind and rain. Replace or have a professional replace any parts that are leaking or loose. Check and clean your rain gutters and downspouts as well to keep them in good working condition so when the rain does come, they can do their job.
Many of the things on this list can be performed by the knowledgeable homeowner. However, some of these items should be done by a licensed professional.
Before you know it, spring turns into summer! Follow this checklist and you’ll be ready!
Identity Theft: Is your information at risk?
David E. Sanor, Sanor Insurance Agency, Inc.
Even if you think you’ve taken the necessary precautions to safeguard your identity and personal information you could be at risk! Identity theft is when someone obtains personal or financial information about you with the intent to commit fraud. The scariest part is that everyone is at risk. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you think no one would want your personal information or that you are not in a high risk group.
How does someone steal your personal information?
Most of us are pretty trusting people. We hold our selves to a certain standard of behavior and we expect that others will too. Most of us think that stealing is wrong and we wouldn’t dream of trying to open a bank account or apply for a credit card with fake information. Unfortunately for us there are people out there who not only want to steal your information; they want to assume your financial identity.
These identity thieves can be big time professionals in the business of forging identity papers for illegal immigrants or other criminals or they can be small time con-artists trying to swindle you out of your hard earned money. Either way there are many ways a thief can obtain information about you. They can sift through your recycle bin, your garbage, you mail, and sometimes even hack in to your computer to get your passwords and log-in Id’s.
We’ve become easy targets for identity thieves through our use of technology. Today we don’t think twice about internet banking or shopping, but a one careless move could put us at risk. It may convenient to bank or shop online, but more and more identity theft is happening in the cyber world and that places anyone who uses a computer in jeopardy.
How can you protect yourself from identity theft?
The good news is that protecting yourself from identity theft is simple and there are many effective ways to protect your financial and personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
Keep your vital records like bank statements, birth certificates, social security numbers and other personal information in a safe place. Using a locking file cabinet or fire safe is one way to protect your records at home. Either of these solutions is economical when you consider the cost and inconvenience of losing your identity.
Consider leasing a safe deposit box at your bank. The fees are usually low and if you have an account already some of the fees might be waived. A safe deposit box is the place to keep your will, or power of attorney, or other important records.
Be sure that your mailbox is lockable. Statistics show that having your mail delivered to a locked mail box discourages thieves. If you can’t have your mail delivered to a locked box at your home consider using a post office box. The cost is small and you’ll feel more secure knowing that your mail and your personal information is not at risk.
And while we’re talking about mail; be sure to shred any mail that has your name, address, account numbers, or other personal information on it. Especially if it’s an offer for credit, home loans, or bank services. These documents are gold to a thief and need to be shredded immediately if you aren’t going to take advantage of the offer. A shredder for your home or office is an inexpensive alternative to hiring a document shredding company for your business.
Use common sense when you shop or bank on line. Never shop with a vendor that doesn’t offer a secure payment method. Never respond to emails that ask for personal information, even if they appear to be from your bank or financial institution. And never give out your passwords or log in information.
Protecting yourself from identity thieves might seem like too much trouble or too much work, but once you get in the habit of taking these few steps you’ll rest secure knowing that you’ve done everything you could to protect yourself. Don’t become another statistic; take the appropriate steps to protect your personal information today. There are many resources available to you. Check with your bank or financial institution on their policies regarding identity theft. Visit the bookstore or library for information on what steps you can take at home. Contact the Better Business Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce to see what information they might have on how you can fight identity theft and of course you can visit the many sites online. One good website is; www.ftc.gov/privacy
Get protected. Call us at (330) 337-9557 and get Identitiy Theft Protection coverage today!
Everyone knows that winter can mean dealing with some pretty severe weather: snow, ice and cold temperatures. Despite your best efforts, sometimes the cold manages to find a way inside your home.
“Take the time before winter arrives to weather-proof your home,” says David Sanor, of Sanor Insurance Agency. “You’d be amazed at how easy it is to prevent ice dams and frozen pipes, two common causes of water damage, when you take steps to avoid them.”
Taking precautionary steps now can save you time, money and the hassle of filing a claim later. Disastersafety.orgoffers the following winter weatherizing tips:
· Seal windows and doors
Caulk or apply weather stripping around drafty doors and windows to keep heat in. You can also place insulation film over windows to help keep the cold out.
· Clean out gutters
Clear gutters of leaves and other debris so water can flow easily. Water that gets trapped in clogged gutters at the edge of your roof and refreezes can create ice dams. Ice dams add weight to your roof and can cause leaks if water builds up and can’t escape down gutters and downspouts. Installing a leak barrier underneath shingles can also help prevent water from seeping in during the winter.
· Insulate and ventilate your attic properly
Insulating your attic will keep heat from rising and melting snow on the roof. Properly installed insulation should rise above the level of your floor joists, not sit below or level with them.
Ventilating your attic is just as important. Heat that does manage to rise through the insulation needs an outlet to escape through. Additionally, vents allow cool air from outside in. Having a cooler attic will help prevent snow from melting and refreezing on your roof.
· Remove excess snow and ice from your roof
Snow and ice can build up and create a weighted load on the roof. Knock it down with a heavy push brush or snow rake before ice dams can form. Some homes have higher roofs than others. If you need to use a ladder to reach your roof, consider how comfortable you are with doing so. If you’re not, call a contractor or roofer to come and knock the snow down for you.
· Watch for frozen pipes
Frozen pipes can cause a homeowner a lot of aggravation, especially if they burst. When the temperature in your home drops too low, the water in pipes can freeze. Once water turns to ice it can expand, which pipes are not designed to accommodate. If you have pipes that run through an exterior wall in your bathroom, kitchen or laundry room, its best to insulate around them to keep them from freezing. Keep your home at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit and know where the shut off valve for your pipes is, just in case.
If you didn’t fortify your home against severe weather, don’t panic. There are several things you can do to your home even late in the season like monitoring your pipes for signs of freezing, removing excess snow from your roof and sealing drafty windows.
Not all companies are licensed or operate in all states. Not all products are offered in all states. Go to erieinsurance.com for company licensure and territory information.
Fires can become life threatening in just 2 minutes:
Take simple steps to prevent them
Fire in a home is a tragedy. A greater tragedy is that most home fires can be prevented. Learn the facts, and share them with your family.
Fire can become life-threatening in two short minutes, and an entire house can be engulfed in flames in just five minutes, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If you see fire, don’t take time to make a call or gather some possessions. Just leave.
Shut doors at night
Flames are dangerous, but heat and smoke can be worse. Fire produces extreme heat and toxic gases that can quickly make you disoriented and drowsy, and your lungs can become seared by dangerously hot air, FEMA reports. As a result, many people who are sleeping during a fire fall into a deeper sleep. Slow the spread of fire and smoke by shutting bedroom doors at nighttime.
Smoke detectors are key
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide detectors each time you change your clocks. According to FEMA, asphyxiation deaths in a fire outnumber deaths from burns three to one.
Dangers when cooking
The National Fire Protection Association reports that 44 percent of fires that start in a home are related to cooking. If you have something frying on the stove or cooking under a broiler, stay in the kitchen. Leaving for a quick minute could be enough to start a fire. Keep children away from stoves, and make sure your own clothes and sleeves don’t accidentally pass over the stove’s flame.
Never use the stove or oven to heat your home, as the buildup of carbon monoxide can be poisonous or deadly. Another cause of home fires is barbeque grills placed too close to siding, deck railings or tree branches.
Nighttime fires are often caused by cigarettes not fully extinguished (they can smolder for hours before creating a flame), stray sparks from fireplaces that don’t have the screens or glass doors closed for protection, and heating appliances kept too close to furniture, curtains or combustible materials.
Take simple steps to check that cigarettes are extinguished, toys and clothes left near heating elements are picked up, and that there is proper ventilation in rooms using fireplaces, kerosene heaters or wood stoves.
Never smoke in a home with an oxygen tank. Even if the tank is off, the oxygen can explode and create a hotter fire that burns faster than usual.
Don’t leave burning candles unattended. If you have children, keep matches and lighters out of their reach. Teach children to tell an adult if they find such items – they should not handle them themselves.
Plan ahead with your family
Develop a fire escape plan with your family, choosing a safe meeting place, like a trusted neighbor’s porch, and practice your plan.
Most fires can be prevented, so start a discussion about fire safety that will protect your family for years to come.
Information from: FEMA and Ohio Insurance Institute
“This information brought to you by Sanor Insurance Agency, Inc., a proud member of Professional Independent Agents Association of Ohio, Inc.”
Don’t become a victim of frozen pipes
A frozen winter wonderland can turn ugly when water pipes freeze and burst. But you can take steps to avoid frozen pipes.
How to prevent trouble
1 Before cold weather hits, drain your swimming pool and sprinklers. Remove outdoor hoses, turn off the water supply located inside the house, and then open the outside hose lines and leave them open through the winter.
2 When winter temperatures hit, keep the thermostat at the same temperature both day and night, and never set it lower than 55 degrees.
3 Make sure water pipes exposed to cold areas are insulated. Pay close attention to lines that run along exposed walls or in basements, attics or garages. Call a plumber if you know of certain pipes that are prone to freezing.
4 If water is trickling as it comes out of a faucet in your home, it’s a sign there’s ice in the pipes. Leave the faucet running to help melt the ice, and keep cabinet doors near the pipes open to circulate warmer air. You can use a hair dryer or carefully positioned electric space heater to help thaw the pipes. Do not use open-flame appliances or tools to heat the pipes. If those measures don’t work, call a plumber.
5 Keep your garage doors closed if any water lines run through the garage. If a pipe is exposed, allow water to drip from that faucet at critical times to prevent freezing.
My pipes burst – now what?
If you’ve already become the victim of water pipe damage or other damage due to snow or ice, what should you know about your insurance coverage?
1 Standard property insurance typically covers your property when it is damaged by ice, water, heavy snow, or burst water pipes. Know your deductible, and call us to find out if there are restrictions or exclusions. Renters insurance will cover the possessions in your rented property, with limitations, but will not cover the structure.
2 Know if your insurance covers replacement cost or actual cash value.
3 Understand that flood insurance is not usually part of a standard property insurance policy.
4 If your home sustained damage, document your losses with video or photos, take reasonable steps to avoid further damage to your home and belongings, and call us immediately to file a claim. There are time restrictions on calling to report damage. Keep detailed records about handling your claim, including who you spoke to, the date and time of call, and what was said. A claims adjuster will be sent by the insurer to inspect the damage. Call us, and we’ll help you through the process.
Sources: American Red Cross, Ohio Department of Insurance
This doesn’t have to happen to you
When Kathy turned on her bathroom faucet late at night, water just trickled out. She couldn’t figure it out, so she decided to wait until morning to call a plumber. Unfortunately, she awoke to a flooded living room, unaware that her pipes had frozen and burst.
Steve turned down his home’s thermostat to save money when he left for a winter trip. Little did he know that he’d return to find his wood floors covered in water. In his absence, water froze in a pipe on an exposed wall and burst the pipe.
Each winter our agency gets calls from clients whose property was damaged due to burst pipes. Help yourself by learning what to do to prevent or deal with frozen pipes.
Call us, and we can clarify what your policy covers and the amounts of your deductibles. You’ll never regret having taken the time to ask questions in advance.
“This information brought to you by Sanor Insurance Agency, Inc., a proud member of Professional Independent Agents Association of Ohio, Inc.”