Stop, Drop & Roll

A Fire Prevention & Safety Discussion

Who doesn’t remember local firefighters coming to your school and repeatedly reciting this fire safety mantra? Stop, drop, and roll was seared into my brain at a very young age, and I was confident that if ever my clothes spontaneously combusted, I held the secret to survival! Now that I have a few more years under my belt and my clothes have managed to remain flame-free, my concerns for fire safety have broadened. As the mother of a forgetful preteen and three fur babies, and as a first-time homeowner the topic of fire safety weighs a lot more heavily on my mind. I’ve researched and put together some tips to help keep my home safe and hopefully yours as well.

Fire Prevention

There are many things we can do to monitor fire hazards in our homes, here are just a few tips for reducing fire hazards.

Inspect! Inspect heat sources annually. Many heating and cooling companies offer membership plans that cover annual or bi-annual inspections. These companies will often include a discount on any parts and labor needed to fix possible issues found during the inspection. Some will even clean debris and replace filters, as well as offering discounts on an emergency or after hour call. Call around and see what the companies in your area have to offer. This will reduce fire risks and ensure your heating source is running efficiently.

Clean! Keep areas with heat sources clean and free of debris. Think about areas in your home that contain heat sources. Do you run space heaters? If so, are they positioned away from flammable items? Are they kept in rooms with minimal dust and debris? If not, ensure that the area is cleaned properly and that the heater is appropriately placed. Another area of concern is the kitchen. How frequently do you clean your stove or toaster oven? Forgotten food particles can ignite and cause a kitchen fire. Dryers should also be checked and cleaned regularly. Lint traps should be cleaned between loads. Also, don’t forget to move your dryer at least once a month to inspect the vents behind it and remove any dust and debris that have collected. This also pertains to your air vents, are your filters clean, and are your vents free from obstruction? Blocked vents will cause your heating system to work harder, which not only shorten its lifespan but can also cause several dangerous and expensive issues. Don’t forget to check outdoor vents as well, snow build-up around these vents sometimes gets overlooked in colder climates.

Control!  Controlling the placement of flammable items in your home is essential. Be mindful of open flames! Candles add ambiance to your room but can become a fire hazard if not properly placed. Be sure to place candles on a flat and secure surface, away from fabrics. Avoid areas that may be accessed by pets or small children, and extinguish the candle upon leaving the room. Maintain your fireplace and ensure that fireplace sparks and embers are properly contained. For a more complete guide to fireplace safety, check out our blog post, “Is your chimney naughty or nice?” In addition, store flammable products away from heat sources, this includes cleaners, hair sprays, insecticides, and other items labeled as flammable.

Fire Safety 

Even though we’ve followed our prevention guidelines and reduced our risk of fire, fires can still happen and we need to know how to deal with them to minimize damage and injury. It is important to develop a fire safety plan and teach our family members fire safety techniques. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

I hope you found one or two of these tips helpful in reducing fire risks and managing possible fire incidents in your home. It is important to remember to teach fire safety to our children from a young age. Toddlers may not be able to dial a phone or recite their address, but they can be taught the sound of an alarm and the steps needed to keep them safe, even if that step is simply staying put at the sound of an alarm and not wandering into an unknown area. There are many materials online targeted towards young children; including, the stop, drop and roll song so many of us know all too well!

Fire extinguishers: Keep them on hand and easily accessible. The number of fire extinguishers needed depends on the layout and size of your house. However, in the least, it’s a good idea to keep one on hand in every area where there is a major heat source or fire risk, such as the kitchen, near your furnace/fireplace, and in the garage, which is often full of chemicals and combustibles.

Emergency Contact Numbers: Know them and keep an up to date list of emergency numbers somewhere visible in your home. Teach younger children how to call 911 in case the adults at home are incapacitated. List your address if your child is old enough to read it, it may help them recall it during a crisis, even if they have it previously memorized.

Develop an exit strategy or fire exit plan: Discuss the plan with your family and conduct a trial run. Make sure younger family members understand what needs to be done. Also, make sure they are aware of what a fire alarm sounds like.

Fire Alarms: Fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are very important fire safety tools. Most home fires start at night when families are at their most vulnerable. During the day it may be easy to detect a foul odor or to see smoke coming from another room, but your reaction time will be significantly delayed if a fire starts when your household is asleep, costing you precious moments.

Is your house on fire, Clark?

Tips for Maintaining Electrical Safety This Holiday Season

In my house, Christmas is synonymous with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In fact, I can’t decorate my home without thinking about Clark’s over the top light display. I can even hear Aunt Bethany’s voice as she asks Clark if the house is on fire! As much as I love every ridiculous moment of this movie, it is an obvious reminder of the dangers present when electrical safety isn’t a main priority during the holidays or really any time of the year for that matter.
We’ve all seen an overloaded outlet, maybe not quite as extreme as The Griswold’s garage abomination, but even slightly overloaded outlets have their risks.

How to Stay Safe While Decorating This Season

When plugging in holiday lights pay attention to the strand’s wattage, find out what the maximum wattage allowance is for your outlet. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and stick to two or three strands. Also, read the package your lights came in, it will let you know how many strands can be strung together. Don’t exceed the recommendation on the package.

Consider using power strips, power strips have built-in circuit breakers that add an additional layer of protection. Be careful when using extension cords, especially outdoors, be sure your cords stay dry and aren’t run underneath carpeting. Also, consider pairing your extension cord with a power strip.

Use newer lights, old light strands may not be as safe. Opt for LED lights when your budget allows, they don’t run as hot, so they present fewer fire risks and provide some savings on your power bill! When purchasing lights make sure to note whether they are indoor or outdoor lights. They may look similar, but they are not the same. Indoor lights aren’t properly sealed for the moisture they encounter outdoors.

Lastly, inspect your lights, if you see a damaged cord, replace it right away, don’t plug it in! This goes for any cord in your home as well.

Electrical Safety Tips for the Rest of the Year

There are other ways to improve electrical safety in our homes beyond the Christmas season.

Appliance safety is a big part of electrical safety and honestly one I don’t often think about! Make sure when you buy a new appliance you read the manufacturer’s instructions before plugging it in. I typically file those little books away without a second thought, but doing so could cause a major electrical issue. These booklets will provide important information like the recommended grounding method and what electrical items to avoid, such as adapters or extension cords. Only plug one high wattage appliance, coffee-maker, toaster, or any other appliance that produces heat in an outlet at a time.

Consider installing GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlets if you don’t already have them. These outlets help reduce shock hazards, especially in areas where water may come in contact with your electrical equipment. Your electrician can also install AFCI (arc-fault circuit interrupter) outlets in your home to reduce fire risks, these outlets protect against wiring issues like sparking.

Now, that your home is a little safer this holiday season, you can concentrate on more important things, like eating sugar cookies and watching your favorite holiday movies!

Is Your Chimney Naughty or Nice?

As we head into the holiday season and begin to prepare for the colder weather there is a very important question, we must ask ourselves. What would Santa say about the state of our chimney? Now, when you ask yourself this question, be sure to channel your inner child, the one that wouldn’t want to disappoint his watchful eye!

In all seriousness though, chimney safety is an important concern and one that often gets overlooked. Anyone living in a colder climate knows that winter weather often sneaks up on us before we are really ready for it. It is all too easy to start that first fire earlier than expected, all while forgetting to follow some routine safety steps.

Tips to Land Your Chimney on the Nice List

  • Start early! Make late summer plans to have your chimney inspected. It may be more difficult and possibly even more expensive to book a chimney sweep during the autumn season, when they are at their busiest.
  • If your chimney needs cleaned, schedule a chimney cleaning. Make sure to find out if the company your using is certified and insured.
  • Think about getting a chimney cap or hat to protect your recently cleaned chimney. A chimney cap will not only help keep out extra moisture and debris, but will help to keep critters out as well.


Maintaining Safety During the Winter Season

  • Utilize glass doors or a wire screen mesh to contain embers or flying sparks, even if your fire will be monitored.

  • Build smaller fires, using seasoned woods, a smaller fire with dryer wood will burn more completely and create less smoke.
  • Don’t burn cardboard or paper items in your fireplace and be sure to keep excess ash to a minimum!
  • Look into purchasing a stovepipe thermometer to help ensure fireplace temperatures remain safe.


Now that you’ve secured your chimney a place on the nice list, let’s keep it there! A clean and well-maintained chimney will not only increase fireplace safety, it will also improve air quality, and reduce residue build-up on your walls.

How a Home Inspection Helped Me Battle a Bully

I know that the word bully conjures up visions of playground tyrants pushing down smaller children and stealing their lunch money, but the playground isn’t the only place these bullies can be found. When purchasing a house, especially in areas where viable home options are limited, which seems to be a growing concern in most areas these days, sellers can be more selective and assertive and, in our case, become a bully. See that pretty little brick house to your right? That is the house me and my partner bought last year. It was perfect for us and we actually happened to grab a showing and get our offer accepted! The seller listed the property for sale by owner. He created a flyer that came with his list of demands. Literally a full page with several lengthy paragraphs. Among those paragraphs were the words “AS IS”! Two scary little words, but what could be wrong with this house, I mean it was beautiful? As is or not we booked our home inspection based on recommendations from the realtor we had chosen to represent us.

What did the home inspection bring to light?

The home inspection came with a full report, complete with clear and helpful photos. We were willing to overlook most of it, however, the moisture under the house was a step too far. We were paying 8,000 over asking price, paying all closing costs (another demand), agreed to take on a few obvious repairs, but this was a whole new level. However, armed with photos and advice from our inspectors we were able to convince the seller, who initially refused, to have a vapor barrier installed and utilize dehumidifiers to bring the humidity levels down. If we had not had our home inspection the moisture would have gone unnoticed for who knows how long? I’m not a big fan of dark cobweb filled spaces and would have never ventured under there! There were also a few other notable finds, including some minor electrical repairs that could have become major fire safety concerns if not addressed. Plus, it wasn’t all bad, overall the inspection helped us feel at peace about our decision, the house we were purchasing though not perfect was a sound investment.

What I Learned

I would recommend a home inspection to anyone looking to buy a new property, whether it is a requirement or not. I would also recommend making sure that the inspector is insured. Crawling under houses and in attics carries risks, especially when the condition of the house is unknown. Ask your realtor for recommendations. Realtors get to see how home inspectors operate on a regular basis; they have inside knowledge most of us don’t have. I hope you never encounter a difficult seller or discover your dream home is in less than desirable condition, but if you do the home inspection may just save the day!

-Eleanor Emerson

Jump The Water Fine! Fun in The Sun But Safety First In the Pool

Pool
Pool

There is  nothing more fun or relaxing than jumping in your pool after a hard day of work or playing in the sun.  Home pools are a great place for family fun, swimming, relaxing and gathering with friends. I can’t think of anything more soothing that floating on my back in my own backyard oasis.  Or anything more timeless and endearing that watching my children scream with delight as they splash around in their own personal backyard ocean. But before the fun begins there are some important safety precautions that every pool owner needs to take to make sure that their family is safe when playing in their backyard oasis.  Although water is relaxing, refreshing and a source of good times it can also be very dangerous if you don’t take the right steps to create a safe pool environment.

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Spring Cleaning Isn’t Just for Indoors: The Essentials to Make Your Home Spring Ready On the Outside

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh air and the first flowers peaking their heads out after a long winter. There is something about this wonder that give us more energy and motivation to clean,organize and beautify our homes. Often we focus just on getting rid of the dust and clutter that is accumulated over the long, lazy days of winter, but we should also turn our attention to the outside of our homes. Not only are the aesthetics of your home are an important reflection of who you are, but also cleaning up the outside of your home can prevent you from a bug infestation or damage to your home during the warmer months. Two important areas of yard cleanup that are often overlooked are securing your home against a bug invasion and cleaning out your gutters. Make sure to add these to add these to your Spring Cleaning Check List!A Quick List for Cleaning Your Outside Spaces:

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Could Your Drinking Water be Making You Sick?

water-faucet
water-faucet

You may wonder why you would need to have your water tested.  Especially if it doesn’t taste or smell bad or have any noticeable discoloration or cloudiness.  The fact is that many common contaminants that are found in drinking water do not cause a change that is detectable by smell, taste, or sight.  

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Ants, Beetles, and Termites, Oh My- How to Rid Your House of These Tiny Trespassers

Exterminator
Exterminator

Your home is one of the most sacred and comforting places that you spend time. How comfortable would you be if you knew that there were hundreds or thousands of tiny little terrorists silently invading your home? Wouldn’t you want to know where they are and how to get rid of them? What if these trespassers were not only inhabiting your home, but also destroying it from the studs out? Would this make you want to take immediate action to defend your castle? Of course, it would. Sadly, many of us don’t know that we have these tiny, terrible visitors until it is too late and they have created thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. There are some simple ways that you can prevent these interlopers from destroying your domicile. Following the information here can help you on your way to a pest free environment!What Wood Destroying Organisms (WDOs) Are and Why You Need to Be Weary of Them Wood destroying organisms are those nasty creepy crawlies that are silently eating away at your home. This list includes subterranean termites, dry wood termites, damp wood termites, powder post beetles, carpenter ants, and carpenter bees. Each of these bugs have their own unique way of slowly destroying your home, plank by plank:Facts About WDOs

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Red Flags To Look For When Hiring a General Contractor and The Best Way to Avoid Renovation and Construction Disasters!

At the ripe age of 26 and with a great level of naivete and hubris I embarked on the process of building a home. My then husband and I decided that we would be perfectly capable of being our own general contractor. This I believe now is a clear sign of the hubris of youth! We thought that because we had grown up in the area where we were building and knew a lot of people that we would be able to easily find subcontractors to work on our home build. This assumption turned out to be our downfall and a true life lesson. We ended up hiring friends of the family to paint, the father of one of my high school friend’s father as a finish carpenter and a plumber that came highly recommended by our neighbors. In a perfect world this would have all added up to major savings and the security of knowing the people you were working with. However, this is not a perfect world and in the end we often couldn’t get a hold of my high school friend’s father and after charging us for a ridiculous amount of copper piping the plumber that came so highly recommended disappeared and with him all of the pipe.

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