Reduce injuries during DIY projects

Home-Remodeling

Do-it-yourself projects can be cost-effective and completed on the unique time schedule of a homeowner. Although people can do many repairs themselves, using the wrong tools or equipment, or having insufficient knowledge of the task at hand can increase the risk of injury.

More than 18,000 Americans die every year from injuries that take place in the home. Unintentional injuries can be traced to many factors, but making repairs around the house can contribute to the risk of accident. Falls, electrical shocks, broken glass, carpentry tools, and carrying overly heavy loads repeatedly result in injury, according to The Home Depot.

Recognizing these potential hazards and always employing safe tactics can help keep DIYers healthy.

• Ladder safety: A fall from even a few feet can cause severe injuries and even death. Ladders should always be put on a level, stable surface. Individuals should not climb higher than the second rung on a step ladder or the third rung on an extension ladder.

• Tools: Every tool has the potential to cause injury. This injury risk increases when tools are not used properly. Before a tool is used, it’s important to read the instructions.

• Wear protective gloves. Gloves can help protect against burns, electrocution, slippery grip, and even deep cuts or finger amputation when using sharp tools. Gloves also are essential when handling broken glass.

• Power tools: Power tools have momentum and torque behind them to make fast work of various jobs. If using power tools, DIYers should ensure they are the right tools for the job, not something that is handy or a quick fix. Power tools should only be used if a person can devote attention to the task and stay focused. That means never consuming alcohol, drugs or medications that can impair function when using power tools.

• Working with electricity: An electric shock occurs when a person is exposed to a source of electricity and the charge runs through the body. It can cause burns, cardiac arrest, changes to heartbeat, and even neurological injuries, according to the Mayo Clinic. DIYers should take precautions anytime they are working with electricity, including turning off the supply of electricity to the outlet or fixture being worked on.

• Heavy loads: It is important to exercise caution when moving around heavy loads. A friend or family member can help with the transfer of building materials or to relocate furniture.

• Distractions: Avoiding distractions is essential when doing home renovations. Keep pets and children away from work areas to focus entirely on the job at hand.

Source: A Secure Life

Create a healthier home with these renovation tips

healthyhome

Home renovation projects are done for several different reasons, whether to update styles, repair damaged or broken items or to achieve more living space. More than ever before, homeowners are choosing improvement projects geared toward making their homes healthier.

The World Health Organizations says inadequate housing conditions, such as poor ventilation, radon, urban pollution, and moisture issues, can contribute to many preventable diseases and injuries, especially respiratory problems, nervous system disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air quality as a top five environmental risk to public health. EPA studies have found that indoor air pollution levels were roughly two to five times greater than outdoor pollution levels.

People interested in making their homes healthier can embrace these renovations and lifestyle changes.

Be aware of furniture materials

Toxic PBDEs, which are chemicals used as flame retardants on furniture fabrics produced prior to 2006, can send toxins into the air. Some manufacturers may still use these flame retardants in new forms, but with similar risks. Before purchasing furniture, ask if a product is treated, and select naturally fire-resistant materials like wool and cotton.

Lighten up

Lighting is often underappreciated but can have a dramatic impact on whether a home feels inviting, warm and/or uplifting. Experiment with different types of bulbs and lighting fixtures to turn drab and dreary environments into brighter places. Lighting may improve mood and productivity.

Let the sun shine in

Modify window treatments to let more sunlight into the house. There is evidence that the sun, particularly UV light, is a potent killer of bacteria. The Sunlight Institute advises that there’s no harm in letting natural sunlight do its work, as bacteria within eight feet of low-intensity UV light can be killed in just 10 minutes.

Inspect and service wood-burning appliances

A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology has found regular inhalation of wood smoke limits immune activity and function. Therefore anyone who burns wood indoors should be aware of these potential health risks. Ensuring proper ventilation of smoke and routinely cleaning the chimney can help cut down on particulate matter.

Go green

Turn to nontoxic cleaning products, pesticides and insecticides, and always opt for nontoxic, natural products when cleaning in and around the house.

Source: Akron Beacon-Journal

How to prepare your home against a wildfire

Young man cutting a branch with chainsaw in the yard

If you live in an area that’s at risk of a wildfire, you’ll likely want to take precautions to help protect your home. Consider these tips to help create some lines of defense so you’re more prepared if a wildfire affects your area.

Maintain landscaping

It’s important to create a barrier between your home and anything that might burn, says Ready.gov. Keep materials such as firewood, dried leaves, newspapers and any vegetation that can burn in a fire 30 feet away from your house, Ready.gov advises. In addition, anything flammable, such as a propane tank and gas grill, should be kept at least 15 feet away from any structure, Ready.gov says.

Next, between 30 and 100 feet from your home, reduce or remove plants or trees that could catch on fire. Ready.gov says. That may involve pruning vegetation and incorporating “fuel breaks” — areas that are not flammable — such as driveways and gravel paths.

If you have neighbors nearby, it’s a good idea to work together to create a safety zone that reaches about 200 feet around your homes. This may include thinning plants, removing underbrush and trimming trees so their canopies don’t touch, Ready.gov says.

Consider additional wildfire defense

When adding to your landscaping, consider fire-resistant vegetation, Ready.gov says. Maple, cherry and poplar trees are less flammable than conifers such as pine and fir trees, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). While no plants are fireproof, low-growing plants with high moisture content and low sap or resin are typically more fire resistant.

If you’re remodeling your home or installing a new roof, opt for fire-resistant materials, Ready.gov suggests. That may include selecting fire-resistant shingles, fireproof window shutters and windows with multiple panes or tempered safety glass. Also consider heat-resistant metal gutters, which may provide better defense than vinyl gutters that may melt away from a house and expose wood.

Vinyl siding may pose another hazard in a wildfire, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says. FEMA suggests opting for non-combustible siding made from materials like stucco, brick or concrete, instead of vinyl. Regardless of the material that cover’s your home’s exterior, it’s important to make sure there are no spaces through which embers from a fire might be able to enter, FEMA says.

It’s also important to keep your roof and gutters free from debris that could catch fire, says FEMA. Installing gutter guards may help prevent leaves and other flammable debris from collecting, FEMA adds.

In addition to hydrants, Ready.gov says water from ponds, wells or a pool on your property may help provide water to firefighters in a pinch. Keep on hand garden hoses that are long enough to reach all parts of your home and other structures, such as sheds, on your property. If a wildfire forces you to evacuate, leave the hoses connected so they are available for firefighters, Ready.gov says. You may also want to fill large containers, such as garbage cans, with water, the website suggests.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Keeping our kids safe in the water

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The summer season will soon be upon us, and many families will soon be heading to the beach. Sadly, it’s also the time when many children drown: An estimated 1,000 children fatally drowned in a single year in the U.S., most of them between May and August. In addition, more than 7,000 children are taken to the emergency room each year because of a drowning scare.

Those drownings most often happen in lakes, rivers, ponds, oceans, canals, reservoirs, retention ponds and other open water. A 10-year-old, for example, is three times as likely to drown in open water than in a pool. And older teens are more than eight times more likely to die because of an open water drowning than a pool drowning.

What families can do to keep kids safe

Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.

Make sure children learn how to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Consider their age, development and how often they are around water when deciding if they are ready.

Make sure kids learn these five water survival skills: 1. step or jump into water over their head and return to the surface; 2. turn around and orient to safety; 3. float or tread water; 4. combine breathing with forward movement in the water; and 5. exit the water.

Teach children that swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. Be aware of situations that are unique to open water, such as limited visibility, depth, uneven surfaces, currents and undertow. These potential hazards can make swimming in open water more challenging than swimming in a pool.

Use designated swimming areas and recreational areas whenever possible. Professionals have assessed the area, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules.

Swimming in lakes, rivers, oceans and other open water poses hazards you won’t find in a swimming pool. Parents need to be aware of such risks as uneven surfaces, dangerous currents, cold temperatures and more.

Source: Safekids.org

Follow these tips for safer online shopping

online shopping

Love online shopping? You’re not alone.

The National Retail Federation says online retail grew 8%-12% in 2017, up to three times higher than the growth rate of total retail sales.

Clearly, many enjoy the benefits of online shopping. You don’t have to fight traffic to drive to the mall and circle the parking lot. Online stores are open 24/7, and you can wear your pajamas. It’s easy to compare prices between multiple retailers and read both customer and professional reviews of products before you buy.

But to shop online safely, and protect your personal identity from malicious types, follow these online shopping safety tips.

Look for the padlock
Always use a secure Internet connection when making a purchase. Reputable websites use technologies such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that encrypt data during transmission. Look for the little padlock in the address bar or a URL that starts with “https” instead of “http,” as the “s” stands for “secure.” Some browsers will tell you it’s safe to give out your credit card by showing you a green address bar, while unprotected ones will be highlighted in red.

Use a secure payment method
Only shop on sites that take secure payment methods, such as credit cards and PayPal, as they likely give you buyer protection just in case there’s a dispute.

In other words, you won’t be held liable for fraudulent charges. Even before it gets to that, you might be notified by your credit card company or bank if suspicious activity is detected.

It’s always a good idea to review your account transactions online or go through monthly paper statements to see if anything looks questionable.

Password pointers
A strong password is at least seven characters long, has a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and with some uppercase characters, too. Change passwords routinely. Or use a password management app if you’re worried you won’t remember the password.

It’s good to reset your shopping passwords every so often, just in case someone guesses them, or if there’s a data breach at an online retailer. And never use the same password for all online shopping sites (or other web activities, like online banking), as once someone guesses one password, they’ll have free reign over everything else.

Do your homework
When on marketplaces like eBay, check the seller’s reputation and read comments before buying a product to see what the experience was like for past customers. You can always ask a question of a seller and reputable ones will reply in a timely manner. Also, read the item description carefully before you buy, including where the seller is located, shipping charges, if the product is new or used, refund and return policies, and payment methods accepted.

Watch out for fake shopping apps
Hundreds of phony retail apps popped up last year in Apple’s App Store and Google Play (for Android devices), in the hopes of tricking shoppers into downloading and using them.

These counterfeit apps — complete with an authentic-looking logo and marketing messaging — want your credit card information to steal your identity. Some have been found to contain malware that can also infect a mobile device, while others ask you to log in with Facebook credentials to lift personal data.

Be sure you’re downloading the legitimate app by getting it from the company’s official website or if downloading from an app store directly.

Source: USA Today

Stay secure while tackling home remodeling projects

Home-Remodeling

Burglars are opportunistic creatures. If they see a vulnerable home, they are going to strike. Overgrown lawns, newspapers piled up in the driveway, a dark and quiet interior – these are clues that tell burglars the owners may be out of town and the home is vacant.

In addition to travelers, though, there is another group of homeowners who should be especially cautious of burglars: Those who are remodeling their homes. Obvious clues include open areas covered solely by tarps, contractors frequently stopping by the house, or workers you don’t know walking in and out of your home. All these signs point out one thing to a potential burglar – opportunity.

Whether you are ripping up carpet or knocking down walls, it’s important to take security into consideration. If you’re investing time and money to remodel your home, protect that investment by following these simple tips:

Make sure the exterior of your home is well-lit at night.
Outdoor lighting is especially important if parts of your home are temporarily exposed to the outside. Don’t give intruders the chance to sneak into your home. Outside lights with motion sensors are an inexpensive and effective way to deter burglars.

Keep the work zone around your home clean and uncluttered.
If you are undertaking a major project, you may have several contractors working on your home with tools strewn about your property even after the work day is over. Burglars can make quick money by stealing easily accessible tools and may come back to commit a more serious crime, such as burglary. Speak with your contractor and make sure the crew takes or locks up all tools and equipment before leaving each day.

Use a trustworthy contractor for your home renovations.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear about dishonest contractors stealing from the homes they are working on. Avoid hiring a dud before signing a contract by checking the company’s references, getting a quote in writing, and thoroughly understanding the terms of your contract. Also, keep an eye on your valuables during the remodeling process to make sure that nothing goes missing.

Keep your alarm company in the loop.
If you plan on making major structural changes to your home, contact your security company before beginning construction. The changes may affect the way your alarm system works in your home.

If you don’t have a security system, maybe it’s time to find some money in the remodeling budget to protect your two most valuable assets: home and family. Contact the home security experts at Solucient today to get started.

Source: Electronic Security Association

Is your home ready for Spring? This checklist can help

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Spring at last! It’s an exciting time of year, but it’s also a time to get things done. While spring cleaning is common, there are actually a few other things you should do to keep your home safe as the seasons change.

The checklist below can help you make sure your home is ready for spring weather, inside and out.

Replace batteries
Start by checking the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms—it’s crucial that they work if there is an emergency. While you’re at it, spring is a great time to check other batteries around your home. For example, if you have wireless equipment for your home security system, make sure it has fresh batteries.

Make sure you’re breathing clean air
Spring is allergy season for a lot of people, and while you can’t control what is in the air outside, there are a lot of things you can do about the air in your home.

Invest in a HEPA air purifier (HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air. HEPA air filters are especially good at eliminating small particles from the air in your home)

Replace the HVAC filters in your home. We suggest replacing them at the beginning of each season, but if you have pets or are prone to allergies, you should replace them more frequently. We also suggest cleaning your filters in between replacements so they’re more effective. (It will keep the air cleaner and make your air conditioning and heating systems more efficient.)

Clean out the dryer vent
The vent behind your dryer can become a fire hazard if it isn’t cleaned out often. Take a few moments during your spring cleaning to make sure the vent is clear.

Check for mold
Mold can build up in cold, dark, damp places around your home. Spring is a smart time to inspect your house. We recommend checking areas where there’s less ventilation and areas where moisture accumulates. Just be sure to wear a mask and gloves while you’re inspecting your house. If you find mold, we suggest calling a local professional since there could be mold you can’t see on your own, and a professional is able to safely eliminate the problem.

Check your roof for weather damage
Winter can be hard on your roof, especially if you live in an area that gets heavy snowfall. As spring approaches, check your roof for missing or broken shingles and replace them as needed.

Secure your home’s entrances
Spring is a great time to reevaluate your home security. Check all the entrances to your home and make sure they’re secure. Check windows to make sure the screens are still intact and that the locks work well.

Install outdoor security cameras and motion sensor lights near your doors, especially back entrances that aren’t as visible to the public. And, swap out old garage door codes for new ones.

Source: A Secure Life

Help prevent slips and falls in and around your home

A quiet street in a cozy neighborhood of anywhere America.

Something as simple as a decorative rug or lamp cord can lead to an accidental fall in your home. That’s why it can be helpful to look at each area of your home with fresh eyes, and work to spot any potential hazards that may cause someone to experience an injury in or around your home.

Minimize indoor trip hazards
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), common locations for falls include doorways, stairwells, cluttered hallways and areas prone to wetness and spills.

Here are some things the NSC suggests doing to help prevent slips and falls in these and other areas inside your home:

Make sure you have adequate lighting.
Arrange furniture so there are clear pathways for walking.
Install handrails on both sides of stairways.
Tuck electrical cords out of any traffic areas.
Clean up spills as they happen and keep everyone off freshly mopped floors.
Remove throw rugs or use non-skid backings to keep them from slipping.

It’s also important to consider overnight guests who may not be as familiar with the layout of your home. Here are some steps the NSC says you can take to help make your home safer for visitors:

Place nightlights in the kitchen, bathrooms and hallways.
Keep food, drinks and other frequently used items accessible, so that a stool or ladder isn’t needed to reach them.
Set down non-slip mats in the bath or shower.

Reduce trip hazards outdoors
Of course, trip hazards aren’t only possible indoors. Stairs, ramps and uneven walkways are also common locations for falls outdoors, says the NSC. These are some measures the NSC suggests that may help reduce hazards outside your home:

Use adequate lighting, especially near steps, stairs or doorways.
Direct downspouts so that water doesn’t accumulate on walkways.
Install handrails on both sides of stairs.
Remove debris from sidewalks and other pathways.
Check the condition of walkways and stairs periodically, and either make immediate repairs or arrange for a professional to do the work.

Just remember, a walkthrough of your home to eliminate trip hazards shouldn’t just be a one-time occurrence – it’s something you may want to consider doing on an ongoing basis. Doing periodic walkthroughs and fixing any hazards you see can help ensure that everyone who moves around your property can do so with peace of mind.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Edit obituaries: Scam artists are reading them

obituaries

More con artists and thieves are targeting the deceased and their families by combing obituary listings, according to AARP.

Publicly sharing personal information is risky enough in everyday life. It gets worse in death. It’s never wise to let strangers know your name, address, birth date, birthplace, family members’ names or even hobbies, whether you post the info on social media, take surveys, or fill out product registration forms.

But obituaries can take the risk to a whole new level. When published in newspapers and on websites, they can spoon-feed scammers the precise nuggets they need. We all want to acknowledge a loved one’s life completed. But be aware that the devil is in the details. The more personal facts provided in an obit, the greater risk of scams—for the departed and survivors alike.

When it’s time to write the notice, give the deceased’s age but leave out the birth date, middle name, home address, birthplace and mother’s maiden name. Don’t even include the names of family survivors. This last advice will be hard to follow, but otherwise you put family members at risk of scams like these.

Identity theft
Each day, thousands of dead people fall victim to identity theft, costing their survivors pain and financial loss.
Spare the details in an obit. And quickly send requests to each of the major credit-reporting bureaus to flag the person’s account as “deceased.” This permanently stops new credit from being issued in the person’s name. You’ll need a certified copy of the death certificate, proof that you are the executor or spouse and other details about the deceased. Also notify the Social Security Administration, IRS, banks, insurers, brokerages, credit card issuers and mortgage companies, in case scammers approach them. Also, close accounts on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Grandparents scam
Scammers use names published in obits to pose as grandchildren of the deceased, calling grieving survivors with sob stories about being mugged or arrested and needing money. Research shows that with any scam, your vulnerability is highest in the three years after a major stress. Obits are pure gold for scammers, who can target grieving spouses immediately following the death and seem credible by citing names.

Deceptive debt collection
Crooks often call spouses, children or siblings to make a claim that survivors must repay the deceased’s debts. Not true. Unless you cosigned the obligation or are otherwise legally responsible, debts are paid from the estate—not from the pockets of relatives. Anyone saying otherwise is deceiving the grieving for a quick buck.

Fictitious life insurance
In another name-dropper, self-described insurance agents and attorneys get in touch with survivors to claim the departed took out a huge (but often “secret”) life insurance policy. But before benefits can be collected, a final premium (or taxes, handling fees, etc.) must be paid. Legit insurance companies don’t request upfront fees by wire transfer or prepaid debit card.

Burglary
If the deceased’s address and the time of the memorial service are in the obit, burglars know when to strike the unoccupied home, as well as those of neighbors paying respects. Leave the home address out and have a friend or neighbor forgo the service to keep watch.

Source: AARP Bulletin – March 2018

Apartment security tips for Spring and Summer

spring living room

As temperatures begin to rise and you’re excited for the warmer seasons ahead, it’s still a good idea to remain vigilant with your apartment security.

Here are some security tips to consider to help protect your apartment and valuables this spring and summer.

Use outdoor lighting and timers
Does your apartment come with an outdoor light? If so, you may want to consider turning it on each night. This lighting may help deter potential burglars from your place. Some apartment buildings also try to keep walkways, parking areas and courtyards well lit. If you notice a light is out, or there’s an area that may benefit from some additional lighting, notify your landlord right away. And, when you’re away from your apartment — particularly if you’re heading out of town for some time — consider installing timers to power a light or two, or a TV, to help give the appearance that someone is home.

Store important valuables in a safety deposit box
To help protect important documents like a Social Security card or precious jewelry like your grandmother’s pearl earrings, you may want to consider getting a safety deposit box at a local bank to give yourself another level of security in case of a potential burglary in your apartment.
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Get to know your neighbors
To help report any suspicious activity around your apartment complex, it may help to get to know your neighbors a little bit. You may be able to watch out for one another and notice when someone or something is out of the ordinary.

Always lock doors and windows
Law enforcement experts say most burglaries are likely the result of unlocked doors and windows. If you’re running down to get the mail or up to the rooftop deck to enjoy a fresh breeze, the last thing you want is to return to your apartment to find your valuables have been stolen. Keep all doors and windows locked, and make sure there’s a security bar in sliding patio doors or windows. Work with your landlord or the apartment complex’s management company to make sure exterior doors and those to common areas, laundry rooms, etc., are also kept secure.

Be aware of ‘deception crimes’
Deception burglars are criminals who masquerade as contractors, utility workers, or some other type of professional repair people to take advantage of unsuspecting residents. Be cautious of anyone coming to your door asking to make repairs or requesting for access to your apartment for any reason. Request identification and call the company to get authorization before you ever consider allowing someone in. Workers offering special deals and bargains.

A bit of caution may go a long way in helping protect your place and all your stuff. But if you feel like you need additional advice, or some tips that are specific to your unit, considering speaking with your landlord or your apartment complex’s management company for more help.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

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