Electrical Hazards in Your Home

Our world is electric!! No, I mean, literally.

Electricity flows all around us, yet we are so inured to the wonders of electricity and the conveniences it brings that we too often take for granted the hazards of electricity. 

When we see a video of a lightning strike, we’re amazed, and maybe a little frightened.  But that very dangerous electrical connection that can cause bodily harm and property damage is literally all around us, everyday.

Here are five electrical hazards in your home to be aware of and to check and prevent against catastrophe.

  1. Extension Cords.  Electricity seems so safe as we go through our days using it.  We plug away with nary a thought of the dangers of electrical shock or fire.  Extension cords are the best, and worst, example of our thoughtlessness about electricity. 

    You find yourself in need of an outlet to plug in your phone charger, vacuum cleaner, a lamp, or cordless drill charger.  “Oh! There’s an extension cord right here!”   Never mind that cord is loaded with other plugs, and the cord is plugged into another extender from one to three outlets back at the wall plate.  So much electricity drawn through such a receptacle builds heat very quickly.  It’s the heat that causes the fire, not an electrical spark.
  2. Water Hazards.  We have electrical devices and connections we’re using very close to water sources all through our homes.  In the kitchen, the bathroom, laundry room, in work rooms, outlets and extension cords and appliances in close proximity to water is a recipe for disaster.  The Ground Fault Interrupt (GFI) outlet was designed to minimize these hazards.  This outlet has a tripping circuit breaker built into it so there is no delay from the moment a hazard/overload is detected and the source of electricity is shut off.  That could be the difference between life and death.
  3. Kids and Pets.  You can’t control either one. But you can take extraordinary precaution to prevent the hazards associated with rambunctious little ones.  Install tamper-resistant outlets and outlet covers to prevent children’s access with sharp point metal objects.  Secure extension cords in such a way to prevent pet nibbling access.  Use heavier duty extension cords.
  4. Coffee machines and similar appliances.  These devices use high heat to brew or cook.  Left unattended and with no beverage/food product left in the device can soon lead to overheating and burning and fire.  Be sure your coffee machines and other self-cooking appliances have automatic off features.
  5. Battery-Less Smoke Detectors.  Smoke detectors save lives!  We often recommend you check the batteries at least once a year and replace with fresh batteries.  But checking more often can’t hurt, either.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Home Security Overview

Alarms, cameras, door and window locks, passwords. 

That should cover everything you need to remember this Autumn as you perform your twice annual security review!

  1. Alarms.  Is your alarm system up to date with the latest equipment?  Check with your alarm provider to be sure your technology is up to date.  Then conduct a survey to be sure that all contact points for your alarm system are secure with no loose contact plates or wiring.   What about power sources for your alarm system?   Be sure that outlets that provide power to your alarm appliances aren’t overloaded with other appliances.
  2. Cameras.  When did you last update the firmware for your cameras?  Even if you’ve set up devices for automatic updates, you should check to be sure that updates have occurred.  Keep hackers out of your systems with the latest software/firmware updates.   How are the sight lines for your cameras?  Have storms or critters moved cameras out of alignment?  Are those lenses clean and intact?  Do a visual inspection up close of each camera to make sure there is no damage to the lenses our housing.  Are the mounting screws secure?
  3. Door and Window Locks.  Check for loose strike plates, loose screws.  Are the locks easy to close and open?  A tiny dash of a lubricant might be necessary to ensure smooth lock operation.  Do your window sashes line up to make the locking secure and firm?  If you’re using electronic locks have you updated the passwords?  Is the power to such locks secure?
  4. Passwords.  We cannot say enough about using very secure passwords and about changing passwords frequently.  Thankfully many smartphone manufacturers and other third party providers are creating secure password storage apps for your phones.  Be sure to back up your passwords in writing somewhere in your home, in a book where you won’t forget it and where it’s unlikely that an intruder would look there to find your passwords.  Yes, written backup.  You read that correctly.

When you conduct a home security review you should also have a conversation with your Independent Insurance Agent to ensure your insurance policy reflects new security measures you’ve installed in your home. This could help to save you money on your insurance premiums.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Archived Articles: Getting your Fireplace or Wood Stove Ready

When there’s a chill in the air, is there anyone who doesn’t enjoy a blazing and crackling fire to warm their home? Whether it’s a fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stove, there’s something cozy and inviting about a fire.

However, to ensure a safe experience it’s important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned on an annual basis or after burning a cord of wood, whichever comes first. 

Fires leave a gummy residue, called creosote, which can stick to the lining of your chimney. Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood, pellets, or coal and is created by soot, smoke, gases and other particles.

When you burn wood to produce heat, gasses are produced that do not efficiently burn away. These gases now condense into liquid form. The liquid sticks to the inside of your chimney walls and/or liner. Over time it dries in the form of creosote.

Insidiously, it continues to build up, layering on like a stalagmite, on the surface of your chimney liner or your flue tile every single time you and your family enjoy a fire.

This is a highly flammable substance that can quickly erupt into a blazing chimney fire if subjected to a high enough temperature. That is why it must be removed periodically.

Hiring a chimney sweep is the traditional way to clean the inner surface and restore safety to the home. Chimney sweeps are trained to determine whether chimneys are structurally sound and whether they need to be cleaned. They will make sure the chimney is up to code, especially important in older houses, and make sure there are any birds or animals in the chimney, or anything that would block the flow of smoke. They also check that there’s no water coming into your home. 

How Do I Prevent Creosote Build-up?

There are steps you can take at home to reduce creosote buildup and the risk of a chimney fire.  Foremost is picking dry wood to burn. Dry wood will appear gray on the surface and have cracks on the end.

Don’t throw pizza boxes or other trash in the fireplace because it causes a thicker smoke, which lowers the temperature in the chimney. While many people use a newspaper to start a fire, it is recommended that a fire log or fire starter should be used instead. This reduces the risk of sparks flying out of the fireplace. Use a screen and stay in the room while the fire is burning. 

Don’t forget to check your existing smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers to ensure all are in working order. If your home does not have the prevention devices, please install immediately.

Chimney maintenance is a priority for your property since harmful gases can build up inside the flue. Lethal carbon monoxide also builds up inside the flue, and if there’s damage to the inside of your chimney, this can seep in to your home. Have you chimney checked by a qualified tradesman regularly to ensure your family’s safety.

For information on ensuring your home is covered in case of a chimney fire, contact Vargas & Vargas at 877.550.0025

Falling for Autumn

Leaves are falling all aroundor they will be. Yes, i’m getting sidetracked with Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On lyrics.

It’s time to maintain your home during the Fall in order to prep your house for winter.  Here are several basic maintenance items to attend to as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer.

The cost of maintenance is always less than the cost of a claim.

  • Gutters and Downspouts.  The build up of leaves and other debris makes for a constant battle during the fall.  Climb the ladder and clean those gutters!  Grab your hose and run it through the downspout to clear blockages.   Accumulated detritus in your gutters creates a water condition at the edge of your roof. This means that water may cascade directly down from the soffit deep below your foundation.  Next thing you’ll have water seeping up and into your basement.
  • Windows and Doors.  Remove the window air conditioners, replace window screens with storm windows.  Same for screen doors.  Check doorways for loose or broken edging and insulation.
  • Heating Systems: Autumn is a great time to replace the filter for your furnace! The smallest of details could be the cause of the biggest of problems.
  • Landscaping around the base exterior of your house.  Be sure that dirt hasn’t built up at a reverse angle down towards your foundation: rake the dirt so that it angles downward and away from your foundation.  This helps to prevent water buildup against the foundation which then seeps down and into your basement.

Please call to inquire how water accumulation in your home may or may not be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. If your house “floods”, you will want to know how it affects your wallet.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Tip-Top on the Rooftop

Gravity combined with water can be an enemy to your property. 

Leaking water through even the tiniest of openings in your roof follows the laws of gravity. It will fall downward causing damage on its way to the inner sanctum of your home. 

The good news is that you can prioritize your to spend a little time on the weekend to prevent water from entering your home through your roof.

  1. Gutters.  Get ready for it. Fall is coming and and it’ll be time to clear and clean those gutters!  The thought of hauling oneself up on a ladder on a Sunday morning to claw through the muck of wet leaves and other detritus isn’t appealing.  Mostly, we think of this as a time-consuming activity that could otherwise be spent with our family. 
    In reality, frequent gutter clearing can be done fairly quickly.  It’s when we let the muck pile up that it sucks up our time.   More to the point, when you clean those gutters, you’re conducting a serious prevention campaign!  You’re avoiding the wood rot that happens from built up water that gets into the soffits of your house and under the shingles of your roof.  Once water gets in there, the damage is more severe than clearing out your gutters.
  2. Chimney caulking.  You’ll need to get up on the roof to check closely the caulking around the bricks of your chimney.  The caulking should not have broken or loose pieces and should have a uniform adhesion to the bricks.  Make sure the shingles around the base of your chimney are secure to the roof.   Check the chimney for loose mortar.
  3. Loose shingles.   Especially after a bad storm, taking a walk around your home for a visual inspection of your roof shingles, or, better yet, while you’re up on the ladder cleaning your gutters, can save you costly repairs.  Shingles should not have loose flaps or curled edges. Secure loose shingles and replace damaged or curled shingles.
  4. Overhanging tree branches and limbs.   Anything that’s too close to the roof and large enough can cause roof damage during severe weather, should be trimmed away from your roof.
  5. Ask the Pro.  It can’t hurt to have a professional roof inspection done every few years. Call us for assistance and a referral to an inspector.

Please check out our other blogs on claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Fire Hazards in Your House

Fire hazards are everywhere. Yet, we often ignore the danger, or, worse, we’re completely unaware of the lurking, imminent threat of fire breaking out.  Fire is a devastating event, inflicting tremendous damage, sever injury and death!  Fire can wreak havoc in a fierce, fast, moment.

Smoke detectors are your primary line of defense to protect your life when a fire breaks out.

But you should take the time to carefully inspect your home for hazards that could easily become a threatening event.

Extension Cords 
Overloaded electrical extension cords cause fire by overheating and exploding in flame. Additionally, they are often near to furniture or draperies that burn rapidly. 

Take time to unburden your electrical outlets from overloaded extension cords.  If you absolutely must increase utilization of a particular outlet in your house, consider hiring an electrician to upgrade the wiring and quality of that outlet. Install of an outlet with a “Ground Fault Interrupt” (GFI) breaker that shuts the outlet off in the event of overloading.  

Consider purchasing a high-quality surge protection power strip with built-in circuit breaker.

Coffee Machines
Does your coffee maker have an “Auto-Off” feature?  We forget to turn off coffee machines; they continue warming the near-empty carafe, ultimately burning off any remaining liquid, thus creating a fire hazard while you’re away from home.

Circuit Breaker Panel Upgrade 
When is the last time you asked a Licensed Electrician to inspect the circuit breaker panel in your house to determine its viability for your current needs?  A simple inspection and potential upgrade of worn or insufficient breakers can go a long way to presenting a first line of defense against fire hazards.

Lightning
Do you have a lightning rod installed on your home?   The lightning rod is a simple metal bar that captures a lightning strike and sends the resulting electrical burst harmlessly away from your roof.

Inspect all electrical outlets
Be sure there’s no furniture, clothing, newspapers or other flammable objects too close to, or obstructing the electrical outlets around your home.  A flimsy fabric accidentally falling on the electrical cord to a lamp can potentially overheat and create an immediate fire situation.

You can find more excellent advice on inspecting and protecting your home at the National Safety Council website.

Call us so we can help you with other claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Back to School: Children and Insurance

Getting children prepped and off to school is often a hectic time. 

The last thing you want to think about is insurance. 
So, don’t.  That’s right, don’t think about insurance!

You’ve got too much on your plate, between clothing decisions, book-buying, book-bag purchases and packing. So, no, there’s no time for insurance.

What you can do, on the other hand, as your crazy, zany, busy early school days proceed is be mindful of things happening that could become an insurance event.  Putting your insurance into a “zen-like” part of your busy day can only help you avoid the dreaded-of-all-insurance-situations:
a claim!

Let’s start with young drivers.  They grow up so fast. When they pass their driver’s test, it’s a bittersweet. You have more freedom and they have more independence with getting from point A to point B.

You forgot to remember that she’d be asking to use the car to hang out with friends, attend school events, go shopping. Back to school time is a great time to be mindful, thinking of your young new-driver’s desires, and prepare yourself, and them, for that driving experience. 

It’s important to carefully remind them about safe driving techniques in order to avoid accidents and claims!

Rushing out the door on those first insane days of school can lead to other potentially dangerous situations, the kind that lead to insurance claims.

How about discussing safety measures before they even leave the house to get on the road? Such as, the coffee machine?  Does it have an Auto-Off feature? 

Too many household fires are caused by coffee machines burning through empty coffee carafes for hours on end.

There are other potentially dangerous events you can avoid when you add a small dose of “insurance mindfulness” into your crazy Back-To-School Days. 

Call your Independent Insurance Agent and ask her to help you become a Zen-Master of avoiding calamitous insurance claim events.  We promise that it’ll be better to enjoy watching your children run off to school in the mornings while you sip your coffee in peace.

Call us for a no-obligation, FREE insurance quote to help you determine that you, your family and your business are protected! You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Walk Through Your House Like a Claims Adjustor

Hopefully you will never need this advice to come to fruition. 
Hopefully you’ll never have a claim. 

But this is what insurance is all about: preparation.  When you prepare for a catastrophe, an accident, a fire or a theft when you buy the right insurance coverage, you’re creating an opportunity to recover.  The money your insurance pays out in the event of a claim is paramount to that recovery. 

There’s one other step to take in your preparation. When you make a claim, often the insurance company sends out a representative to review the damage or the loss and to assess the amount of coverage that should be paid out.  This person is the claims adjustor. 

Never assume the adjustor is looking to provide you with an equitable settlement on your loss or damage.  The best way to get the best financial recovery is to prepare in advance. 

Let’s look at your homeowner’s insurance to prepare for a claim that, hopefully, will never happen.  Walk through your house like a Claims Adjustor would.  Pretend you’re the claims adjuster but with the interest in protecting YOU, the homeowner.

In the event of a theft, you want to show the adjustor the precautions you’ve taken to prevent break-ins to your home.  Is your alarm system properly installed?  Does it have independent power backup?  Are all locks, including those on windows, secure and adequate? 

For the lost valuables, did you prepare with a high-quality inventory of your precious items?  Of all your items that would need to be replaced in the event of a fire?

Do you have photographic evidence to show to a Claims Adjustor?  For very valuable items, did you get a professional appraisal and is that appraisal recent and current?

For damage to the home due to weather including flood*, can you clearly demonstrate that you, the homeowner, took all necessary precautions to protect your home? 

For example, have you diligently cleared large trees or tree limbs that could easily fall on your home?  Have you created storage solutions in the basement of your home to minimize damage to belongings in the event of a water-intrusion event?

Take an hour and do a complete walk-through of your home.  If you ever have to file a claim, you’ll dramatically improve your payout.  That will go a long way to the peace of mind you need to recover.

Call us today to learn about your homeowners insurance and how to protect yourself in the event of an unforeseen claim. Now is the time: before you need your policy to go to work for you.

Your health and financial health depend on it. Call us at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.
Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

*Flood insurance is always specifically excluded from homeowners. Please consult with your agent if you are interested in flood insurance.