Friday, April 22, 2016

How to handle the 10 most common home emergencies

Imagine coming home after a nice dinner at your favorite restaurant and movie only to find three inches of water covering the whole first floor of your house; or on the coldest winter night, strange noises coming from beneath the floor before the pipes burst; or even a short circuit behind the walls starting to smoke and eventually causing a fire. These are all nightmares for homeowners, but the simple truth is that the potential exists for a whole lot to go wrong no matter where you live, what kind of home you own, or even if you rent.

You’ll notice that most of these involve water (which causes flooding and MAJOR damage that requires walls, flooring, and ceilings to be torn out), and electricity (which can cause a home fire or even electrocute someone).

But the good news is that homeowners can be prepared for any home emergency by knowing what they are, why they happen, and most importantly – how to react if disaster strikes. Knowing these can literally help you prevent catastrophes, keep your family safe, and save tens of thousands of dollars in damages. Afraid that you’re not up to speed on the technical aspects of home maintenance and engineering? Don’t worry, because insurance adjusters estimate that at least 30 percent of their service calls could have been prevented or handled with a simple flip of a switch or push of a button.

1. Clogged dryer vents are fire hazards
Did you know that outside of the kitchen, most home fires start in or around the dryer? Hopefully by now you know to clean out the lint trip inside the dryer after each and every use, but homeowners often neglect to properly clean the dryer vents and inside the unit as well. Twice a year, unplug the dryer, pry off the access panel and vacuum out the inside of the dryer mechanism itself (you’ll notice a lot of lint in there!). Next, unscrew or disassemble the ducting that comes off the dryer vent and stick a vacuum in there, clean by hand, or use a vent brush. You should also find out where that vent exits the house and clean it from the outside in.

2. A toilet that won’t stop running
Ok so running toilets may not always wreak havoc on a home, but they sure are annoying – and can cost you a lot in wasted water. But it is possible for running toilets to overflow, and since water damage is so devastating, we’ll include it on the list. Running toilets are usually caused by a worn flapper that isn’t sealing properly anymore, which lets water seep into the bowl, never allowing the tank to fill up.

To remedy this, press the flapper lightly with a yardstick. If the sound of running water ceases, you know that the flapper is indeed the culprit. You could easily replace it (without calling a plumber) but first, also try running your finger along the rim of the hole where the flapper rests. Sometimes mineral deposits or debris build up there, preventing the flapper from sealing.

3. Mold in the home
Mold is one of the most dangerous health hazards around the house, with certain types of mold spores causing major medical issues or even hospitalization or death if left untreated. Unlike flooding or fires where the issue is immediately apparent, mold can fester and grow in unseen places like below carpets and floorboards or behind walls and ceilings. To check for mold, look for any browning or discoloration in the sheet rock and keep an eye out for steady leaks or areas that never seem to dry. You can usually smell a wet or overly humid room that may be a good host for mold, but you can also buy detection kits at your neighborhood hardware store. If a room is particularly damp, use a dehumidifier or set up an additional venting system to make sure mold doesn’t grow.

4. Kitchen grease fire
Kitchen fires are a fairly common occurrence, yet homeowners sometimes panic or do the absolutely wrong thing in the heat of the moment, making the situation much worse and even causing injury.

If an appliance is on fire, make sure to pull its plug out of the outlet first. Instead of pouring water on it, take out the box of baking soda from the freezer and pour it on/into the appliance.

If you notice a grease fire or blaze inside the over DON’T open the oven door! That can cause the fire to spread or even explode as it’s fed renewed oxygen. Calmly turn off the over and keep the door closed and the fire will soon burn out safely.

For grease fires on the stove, DON’T pour water on them or even blow foam on them with a fire extinguisher, as that will spread the dangerous flames. If the fire is in a pot or pan, turn off the stove or the heat source then carefully put the lid or pan on top using an oven mitt, which will extinguish the source of oxygen and quickly extinguish the flames. Never try to carry the fiery pot to the sink or outdoors.

You should have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen or a nearby supply closet. It’s a good idea to buy a few extra and practice using them in the backyard or a safe place with your entire family so they’ll feel comfortable and confident using them in case of a live fire.

Look for part 2 of this blog where we cover the remainder of the 10 home emergencies

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