How to Avoid Electrical Fires

This electrical fire caused $100,000 in damages. Three families were involved.

This electrical fire caused $100,000 in damages. Three families were involved.

Every year, 28,600 families deal with an electrical fire in their home. Homeowners could send this statistic up in smoke if people took more fire prevention steps. Let’s look at some of the more common causes of electrical fires and the measures we can adopt to avoid them:

Cooking:

Every year, one out of eight homes will have a cooking fire. In the majority of these cases, a hot stovetop burner under a pan of grease is the culprit.  When a pan of oil catches fire, handling it correctly by covering the pan with the lid will smother the fire. Trying to carry it outside can cause the grease to spill and burn the entire house down. Never throw water on a grease fire.

Wiring:

Home wiring can become outdated. It used to be that the average American family only had to worry about two or three television sets. But an increase in the utilization of electronics in the typical home has risen drastically. Couple that with the fact that many people now spend a greater number of hours away from home, and the potential for disaster is magnified.

Many homeowners overload the home’s wiring or use it improperly, which in turn can create a circuit overload. If the connectors are worn from overuse, this could also cause a fire.

Faulty wiring causes fires.

Faulty wiring causes fires.

Outlets and Switches:

Faulty electrical outlets and switches should be replaced before they can turn into a fire hazard. Some older homes have two-prong outlets. A fire can start if the homeowner is using a three prong plug in one of these two-prong outlets without properly grounding it first. It's better to just get them replaced.

Extension cords:

Extension cords, particularly frayed or worn extension cords run under rugs are another source of danger.  Extension cords are only meant to be used as a temporary measure.

Oversized light bulbs:

All lamps and light switches are designed to use up to a certain wattage.  Using a higher number of watts than the light is rated to handle is a dangerous practice.

Space heaters:

Space heaters have become popular in situations where warmth is required in a small area for a set amount of time. Therein lies the problem: many areas are too confined for a space heater. Curtains, bedding, clothing, and upholstery can burst into flames by being ignited by a too-close space heater.

Other heating devices to watch out for are heat lamps, hot water heaters, and dryers.

Other appliance advice:

Too old:

It's easy to allow appliances, but especially heating devices, to get too old or worn out. Just cast an eye on Mr. Old Electric Blanket, and his little cousin, Master Heating Pad.

Too close to wood:

Heating appliances such as toasters and toaster ovens should not be operated under low-hanging wood cabinets or close to overhanging items of any type. 

Using electricity safely can bring joy and comfort into people's lives. It's a wise practice to keep a sharp eye and nose out for anything that might pose a hazard. If an appliance has a frayed cord, or if it shows sign of melting, causes a circuit breaker to blow continuously, or smells like it’s melting or burning, replace it.

 If a house catches on fire, the occupants should never stop to try and save important documents, family heirlooms, or treasured possessions. The American Red Cross says that a family may have less than two minutes to evacuate their home in the event of a fire.  The most valuable thing in a home is you and your family. Get out safely.

Tips for Holiday Giving to Aid Victims of Disaster

 Because of our business, we have seen the suffering people endure after disasters firsthand. We also know that most of our customers are especially sensitive to the suffering of others because they, themselves, have suffered through a disaster. Giving to others after a disaster is a great way to feel useful and less helpless when you see the images on TV.

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As the season of giving is upon us, we turn our attention to look over the means and methods of disaster donating and how to make the best impact possible.

FEMA cautions that sending or donating used clothing is rarely useful and creates havoc when those on location are forced to deal with it. Shoes, blankets, toys, medicines, pet supplies, mixed boxes, food, water, and unsolicited (untrained) help create serious coping struggles in communities which are already badly compromised. (Exceptions to this are local shelters, which communicate exactly what they need in the way of physical items if you call or visit their website. Also, local families in need can be helped with physical items.)

So, what is left? Money.

The value of your money is twofold: first, it allows charities to prepare for disasters in an organized and educated way. Supplies can be purchased in bulk before they are needed. Money can be used to provide immediate relief by organizations at the front lines. Second, it allows you to take an income tax deduction. If you do make a donation to a charity expecting to take the tax deduction, make absolutely sure it’s a tax deductible donation. Some ‘charities’ don’t qualify. 

The next question is, who will you choose to get your money?

First, you have to decide where your heart lies. Whether you’re passionate about pets or vets, if there is a local charity, donations at the local level offer the biggest bang for the buck. For example, if your passion is fighting poverty, you can donate to Salvation Army, and that money stays in the community where you gave the donation. If you donate to your local Red Cross, that money stays in your community (If that money is filtered through Red Cross International, they keep a hefty percentage of it, which is okay if that is what you want.) 

One important thing is not to fall prey to misleading emails which claim to provide accurate data on charities or their CEO’s. Do your own research! Charity Watch and Charity Navigator provide some excellent tools. Researching a charity only takes just a few minutes.

Some of the highlights of a solid charity are their transparency and a positive history with good leadership. The wording of the claims on how much of your donation goes toward victims can be tricky. You can read more about that here

Another thing to watch out for is gifts and high pressure or repeat calls. Sometimes callers are outright scammers. Also, people who call on behalf of charities are sometimes paid telemarketers who make more than the actual charity. So if you want to give to the charity, hang up the phone and give directly through their official website or headquarters. This also saves you from another pitfall: giving your credit card number or bank account number over the phone. Tip: Ask the charity not to share your information with other charities, or before you know it your mailbox will be full of charity solicitations. 

Donating is an exciting way to give back to your community and your world. A couple of minutes of your time can turn you into an educated philanthropist and you can do your small part to help make the world a better place. 

Happy holidays, everybody!

Important Facts You Need to Know about Indoor Mold


There are no standards, national or international, on mold. In spite of this, dire news warnings and fear-mongering seem to be the norm when it comes to mold. You need to know facts about mold, not hype. We are here to help, answer your questions, and come to your aid if necessary.
First, some facts.  What is the problem with mold? Who is affected by it? And what can we do to protect ourselves and our loved ones if this truly is an ongoing threat? One thing is for certain—both the news media and certain, nefarious contractors profit on alarmist viewpoints, rather than facts. So, we’ve compiled a list of helpful facts to help you understand the causes and treatments of this ubiquitous organism:
Mold is an ever-present recycler in the out-of-doors, where it plays an important role in the ecosystem. When some varieties grow indoors, they can cause adverse health effects.
Controlling excessive moisture and condensation will prevent and stop indoor mold growth.
Household mold becomes a problem if it is the variety which contains toxins, either triple helical glucan or toxic metabolites, which are both toxic to lung cells even at low levels.
When the mold, Stachybotrys chartarum, often called ‘black mold’ is present, this can cause severe health issues in some people, however, not all black mold is the S. chartarum variety. In addition, mold can cause reactions in some people even if it isn’t S. chartarum, which include sneezing, flu-like symptoms, skin rash, etc. 
People most adversely affected by mold are infants, children, asthmatics, elderly people, and people with allergies or weakened immune systems.
When you see or smell mold, it’s important to find the cause of the moisture which is causing the mold growth and remedy it, or the problem will return. If the problem is structural (a water leak or broken pipe) a professional may need to be consulted. 
Not all contractors have the experience to deal with a mold problem. 
But that isn’t all. You may need guidelines on whether or not the problem is something you can deal with yourself. So, the second thing you need to know is this: how do I decide if I need a professional commercial restoration company?
If the water is caused by a sewage backup or another toxic source, or fresh water source which has become contaminated. 
If the water has damaged more porous building materials, such as ceiling tiles, wallboard, carpeting or drywall, which needs to be removed and replaced in sufficient quantity as to be a cumbersome or untenable project for the homeowner.
If the water has resulted in structural damage.
If the surface area of the mold is larger than 10 square feet.
If you can’t wear the necessary cleanup items: rubber gloves, an N95 respirator, and goggles—or if these items aren’t available for any reason.

 

Where is the mold?
Usually, a visible inspection will reveal visible mold growth, concurrent with a leak or some other moisture. In addition, mold can be detected by a musty or lingering odor.
If no mold growth is readily apparent, conduct an inspection of other areas may reveal the source. These include locations of previous leaks, ventilation systems, and areas of condensation. If you have any doubt as to the location of the mold, if you suspect the mold is in the ventilation system, or if there are persons living in the home who are having health issues or one of the groups who are adversely affected by mold, call a professional immediately. It’s important to find a contractor who specializes in mold and water restoration and has the experience to deal with mold problems. If you need help with a mold problem, give us a call. 

Ten Things you Need to Know about Smoke Detectors

I woke up because my pillow was on fire. – Art, aged 83, whose house burned down as the result of his old electric blanket.

We have all had that sudden fear when we smell smoke or something burning, therefore, knowing how your smoke detector works and how to care for it is a simple way to make that little gadget work for you—and maybe save your life.

A photoelectric smoke detector is a type of alarm which is more sensitive and responds faster than an ionization smoke detector to the slow, smoldering type of fire which progresses while people are sleeping. This is the one recommended by The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) as the gold standard of smoke detectors. These firefighters say this is the smoke detector they have in their own home.

That aside, we’ve assembled a list of the top ten things you should know about smoke detectors:

1)      The should be one smoke detector for every sleeping room, plus one for every floor of your home.

2)      Don’t place a smoke detector near an HVAC unit, a ceiling fan, or anywhere else where a breeze may cause the smoke to dissipate and delay an alarm.

3)      Never paint a smoke detector. SAFE is a good color, regardless of your décor.

4)      Ideally, smoke detectors are interconnected (so when one goes off, they all do), hardwired, and have a battery backup.

5)      Batteries should be replaced when the unit begins regular (non-smoke) chirruping. Keep spare batteries on hand so you don’t feel the need to kill that ‘bird’.

6)      Your basement needs a smoke detector

7)      Smoke detectors should be tested once every month. Consider getting your children involved in this process to help them learn fire prevention safety.

8)      Smoke detectors have an expiration date, usually ten years, and should be replaced before that date.

9)      Smoke detectors need to be dusted. When you test them every month, you can bring the handheld vacuum up there with you and give them a quick cleaning.

10)   Two thirds of all fires start when the victims are sleeping, and typically, fire victims die of smoke inhalation.

 

A smoke detector doesn’t seem like such a remarkable object until it saves your life. Don’t forget to teach every member of your household what the smoke detector sounds like, and what to do if they hear it go off.

 

To read more about the differences in quality between photoelectric smoke detectors and ionization smoke detectors, this article presents a grim picture of the difference between the two.  

 

Remember, replacement is the best option if you don’t know when the smoke detector was last replaced, for example, if you buy a new home.  Always replace them when they are ten years old. A good way to remember is to write the date in the battery casing when the smoke detector is new.

 

One last note: you may also want to equip your home with a carbon monoxide alarm, depending on your heat source. In many states, this is now a requirement. 

Four Things Your Family Needs for a Home Fire Escape Plan

Imagine this:
Your old toaster shorts out, and, after quietly smoldering for hours, the blaze catches and your split-floor plan house is on fire!
As the flames crackle through the living room, your six year-old awakens to the smell of smoke and eerie sounds and lights coming from down the hall.
"Mommy? Daddy?" She queries, sensing there is trouble, but also knowing you sleep on the other side of that trouble.
What does she do?
Why, whatever you taught her to do, of course!
Young children, as we all know, don't always do what we tell them to do. But, if we show them, run practice drills, and keep repeating the rules, several amazing things happen.
First of all, each time you practice a home fire escape, you're telling your child that we plan for, and take safety measures against, home emergencies. You teach her how to shut the bedroom door and climb out her window (or whatever plan you have), and every time you practice this makes her less likely to 1) hide in the closet or 2) crawl under the bed, or 3) freeze in terror and do nothing.
Psychologist tell us that when a person is terrified, they will operate on the most basic level. The only way to prevent your child from doing something inadequate is to teach him to do something else.

The following four things will help ensure your family's safety in the event of a fire:

1) A master evacuation and meeting plan ("Let's meet outside by the big tree next door.")  You can download a grid to make your own evacuation plan here. This will show how each family member can get out of any room in the house and where they should go. Teach them the chant, "Go outside and stay outside!"  This will remind them not to re-enter the home for pets, etc.

2) Regularly scheduled training (escape and evacuation drills). Practice these escape at least twice a year. This tests the abilities of each child to get out of every room in the house two ways, and two ways from the upstairs rooms. Actually implementing your plan will show weaknesses in the plan so you can take steps to correct them.

3) Clear pathways.This is making sure that all exit pathways are clear enough for family members to exit the house. Make sure none of the doors or windows are blocked by furniture and that your children can easily reach and unlock the windows in their bedrooms if needed.

4) Life Safety Equipment (smoke detectors, sprinklers, fire extinguisher, ladders, etc.) Not only will these items warn family members, but, also, when you test and replace batteries in smoke detectors, let them help you.

Amazingly enough, children who help with these preparations become mindful of other kinds of emergency preparations. In other words, it helps teach them a 'safety mentality',  an active thinking process which can be applied to other areas of their lives.
As a parent, you'll be able to share the sense of pride and achievement your child feels when they successfully plan for future contingencies.