For The Home


Wintertime Heat and Fire Safety

 

As the cold weather settles in, we’re spending more time inside our homes. It’s that time of year where we turn up the heat, cook indoors, and build a few fires. It is a fun time to cozy up with family and friends, but it’s also important to stay aware of household heating and electrical hazards. Follow these safety tips to make sure that you keep your home as safe as possible.

 

Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

Colder seasons increase the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a clear, odor-less gas produced by sources such as heating systems, fireplaces, and car exhaust. Installing carbon monoxide alarms in your home is an easy way to alert you of this potentially fatal gas. Similarly, place smoke alarms in each bedroom, in the hall, and on each floor of your home. Alarms should also be tested monthly to ensure they are working properly.

 

Candles

We all love the romantic glow and comforting fragrance of candlelight. But, in a NFPA study from 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 9,300 home structure fires that were started by candles. Most candle fires begin because they were too close to flammable items, were left unattended in a room, or simply because they were knocked over. Be cautious of this when lighting candles in your home and be extra careful when they are around children and pets.

 

Cooking

Cooking is one of the main causes of home fires, especially during this time of year. Rather than grilling, people stay indoors to cook.  The main source of kitchen fires comes from cooking on the stove. With open flames and hot oil, it’s essential you pay attention and keep your eyes on the stove at all times when cooking. Keep your clothing and flammable materials away from open flames. Also do not leave anything on the stove even when it’s not in use. Most importantly don’t get distracted!

 

Electrical Appliances

Fires are also caused by electrical system failures, as well as poor maintenance and misuse of electrical appliances. Be sure to have correctly installed wiring and do not overload circuits and extension cords. Also make sure you have the right cord for the appliance: keep the heavy duty cords for outside use.

 

Portable Space Heaters

Space heaters are the easiest temporary sources of heat to keep your room toasty in the winter. It is highly recommended to keep these at least three feet from combustible materials such as towels, clothes, and newspapers. Do not leave them on when you leave the house and do not attempt to heat the entire home with them. They are meant to be for small spaces.

 

Fireplaces

There is nothing more comforting than hanging out around the fireplace in the colder months. Take simple precautions to minimize their risk as a fire hazard. Have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Be sure to use the right kind of logs and don’t use an excessive amount of materials to build large fires. Keep them at a management size, enclosing the front of the fireplace with a screen to keep the sparks from jumping out into the room.  Also, keep the damper open, never closing it when hot ashes are in the fireplace.

 

Keep your homes and families warm, cozy, and safe this season by following these simple safety tips!

So You Have a New Apartment – Now What?

You made the move to a brand new place. Nice! Maybe you got a new job, or you’re starting another year of college, or maybe you just relocated for the sake of trying somewhere new. Chances are you spent a lot of time looking at different apartments, online or in person. Where can I get the best price for the location I want? How much will utilities be? This one’s perfect, but it’s three-bedroom – where can I find a third roommate?!

But that’s all behind you now. You found it, the perfect place! And maybe it’s not totally perfect (who doesn’t love a fixer-upper?), but you’re willing and eager to embrace it as your new home. So with the stress of vigorous apartment hunting behind you, what’s next on your to-do list?

Furnishing the place

Maybe you are coming to the new town with a truckload of all your belongings—a bed, pots and pans, rugs, childhood paraphernalia: you name it, it’s in the UHaul. But if this isn’t the case, here are some tips for furnishing your apartment stylishly and economically.

  • Take advantage of people near you selling their furniture! Apps like OfferUp and sites like Craigslist show new furniture sales extremely frequently, and if you do it right you can get great deals and convenient pick-ups or drop-offs.
  • Get creative and DIY! Peruse Pinterest for ways to take what you already have or can find for next to nothing and make it a great, useful piece. Take the afternoon and hone in on your artsy skills.
  • Rent furniture! Sites like cort.com and rentfurniture.com will allow you to rent furniture from them. They bring it to you and take it away when you move out. This is a great option if you’re only looking to live somewhere for a year or two.

Decorating tips

If you’re like me, one of the most exciting parts about moving into a new place is the empty walls, open floor, and tabletops just asking for flowers or lamps to be placed artfully on them. Here are some tips for creating a cozy environment to make your new apartment feel like home.

  • Curtains and rugs are simple things that will make an empty space seem more warm and welcoming. In the bedrooms and living room they can be the key items that tie the room together.
  • Have a bunch of pictures or pieces of art you want to hang up, but your landlord said you can’t put holes in the wall? Thankfully, Command Hooks exist—they’re great for hanging frames and cause no damage to the walls when you remove them!
  • Reuse everyday items! Used jam jars can make lovely flower vases, empty spice tins can hold pens and pencils, and any old furniture can be repainted or refurbished to match your look. Again, get creative and DIY!

Taking care of the necessities

This stuff is maybe not quite as fun, but needs to be done in order to live safely and comfortably at your new home! Trust me, it’s all worth it.

  • Call to set up Internet/cable and electricity as soon as possible—it’s definitely not worth it to wait! Along with this, set up a system with your roommates to organize payments sooner rather than later. You would hate to miss a payment because no one remembered that month.
  • Check every aspect of your apartment to make sure it works properly – it’s obviously important to have door locks that work, but also make sure your windows will completely close to save heat in the winter, your curtains and bed spread aren’t touching a radiator or heating unit, and your faucet doesn’t drip. These will save you money on utilities and prevent future escalations of the problems.
  • Invest in renter’s insurance. Protect your belongings from theft or fire by paying a small amount each month to insure your apartment. Totally worth it to avoid having to pay thousands of dollars to replace your laptop, TV, bicycle, etc. You can find out how much coverage you need based on your belongings by clicking here.

Having a new apartment is a very exciting turn in your life. Make sure it’s a good one by minimizing risks and maximizing the space for all it’s good for! Think creatively and you can make your new place feel like home easily.

BBQ Safety Tips!

Nothing says summer like a good ole barbecue! Although this summer staple can be loads of fun, it can also be a dangerous activity if the right precautions are not taken. Before you light up, keep in mind these helpful safety tips from the NFPA!

Before You Grill

– Where you place your grill is crucial for safety.  Keep grills away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves, overhanging branches and other flammable structures. You never know when a grease fire may start and when the wind may blow it a little too far.

– Check the major connection points between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, and where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose.

– Check the propane tank hose for the potential leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle.  Once you turn on the propane tank, the propane will release bubbles around the hose if there is a gas leak. In no bubbles appear, it’s safe to use.

– For a charcoal grill, if you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.

– Clean your grill. Grease and fat may have built up on your grill from previous uses and they provide more fuel for a fire.

– Choose your clothing carefully. Don’t wear clothing that has hanging shirt tails, frills, or apron strings that can catch fire, and use flame-retardant mitts when adjusting hot vents.

While You Grill

– The biggest risk with grilling is fire.  ALWAYS keep a fire extinguisher within a few steps of the grill, and make sure you know how to use it!

– Keep a spray bottle of water handy. That way, if you have a minor flare-up you can spray it with the water to instantly calm it. The bonus of this tip is that water won’t harm your food, so dinner won’t be ruined!

– If you smell gas, turn off the gas tank and burners immediately.  If the smell continues to persist, move away from the grill and call the fire department right away.

– Never, ever leave the grill unintended! If the griller needs a bathroom break, make sure there’s someone else watching the grill carefully. An unattended fire can double every minute.

– Don’t overload your grill with foodespecially fatty meats. The basic reason behind this is if too much fat drips on the flames at once, it can cause a large flare-up.

– Use barbecue utensils with long handles (forks, tongs, etc.) to avoid burns and splatters.

After You Grill

– Make sure to clean grill to prevent build up of grease and fat in trays and below the grill. Cleaning it after you’re done will keep your grill safer for use next time.

– Let the coals from a charcoal grill completely cool before disposing in a metal container

– Never move a hot grill! Let the grill cool completely, which can take over an hour, before moving,

Enjoy your barbecues and stay safe this summer by keeping these tips in mind before you fire up the grill!

How to Prepare Your Home for Trick or Treaters!

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to make sure your home is prepared for trick-or-treaters! Besides transforming the front of your house into a creepy, scary graveyard, there are a few things you should keep in mind to keep your home safe for those who dare to trick or treat!

1. Keep it well lit

While we understand the appeal of a dark, dim lit front door and entrance way, there are a few reasons to keep it well lit.  First, it’s night time and the chance of people tripping over something or falling on the stairs goes way up if they can’t see where they’re going. Second, often people assume that no one is home if the lights are off . Make it clear that you’re joining in the fun by having your exterior lights on!

2. Clear the Path

Trick or treaters will be too excited to pay close attention to where they’re walking come halloween. To avoid any accidental trips or falls, clear all tripping hazards such as hoses, sprinklers, etc from your front lawn. Even better, light up the path to your front door to encourage people to stick to that pathway.

3. No candles!

While Jack-o-lanterns and those paper bag cut outs lit up by candles are popular and festive decorations, they aren’t always the safest choice the night of Halloween.  Paper easily lights on fire, and with children running around, an accidental run in with a lit up jack-o-lantern could easily result in disaster.  Use battery powered candles instead. It will still create the same spooky effect, but in a much safer way.

4. Pets

While we believe your beloved snuffles is the ultimate man’s best friend, having a dog barking at the front door can scare trick or treaters at every age away.  While your fluffy friend may not bite, he could bump into a small child knocking them down or scare a child to run into the street.  The best protocol is to keep pets safe and secure away from the front door.

5. Reconsider some treats

Due to allergies and certain intolerances, some kids end up excluded from the fun of Halloween. It might be nice to consider having a separate small bowl of non-food treats for those might have an allergy to some of the candy.

While Halloween should be frightening, it shouldn’t be dangerous! Have an amazing Halloween this year and keep these tips  in mind for a spooky but safe Halloween!

 

How to Prep yourHouse forHalloween

BBQ Safety Tips!

Nothing says summer like a good ole barbecue! Although this summer staple can be loads of fun, it can also be a dangerous activity if the right precautions are not taken. Before you light up, keep in mind these helpful safety tips from the NFPA!

Before You Grill

– Where you place your grill is crucial for safety.  Keep grills away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves, overhanging branches and other flammable structures. You never know when a grease fire may start and when the wind may blow it a little too far.

– Check the major connection points between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, and where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose.

– Check the propane tank hose for the potential leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle.  Once you turn on the propane tank, the propane will release bubbles around the hose if there is a gas leak. In no bubbles appear, it’s safe to use.

– For a charcoal grill, if you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.

– Clean your grill. Grease and fat may have built up on your grill from previous uses and they provide more fuel for a fire.

– Choose your clothing carefully. Don’t wear clothing that has hanging shirt tails, frills, or apron strings that can catch fire, and use flame-retardant mitts when adjusting hot vents.

While You Grill

– The biggest risk with grilling is fire.  ALWAYS keep a fire extinguisher within a few steps of the grill, and make sure you know how to use it!

– Keep a spray bottle of water handy. That way, if you have a minor flare-up you can spray it with the water to instantly calm it. The bonus of this tip is that water won’t harm your food, so dinner won’t be ruined!

– If you smell gas, turn off the gas tank and burners immediately.  If the smell continues to persist, move away from the grill and call the fire department right away.

– Never, ever leave the grill unintended! If the griller needs a bathroom break, make sure there’s someone else watching the grill carefully. An unattended fire can double every minute.

– Don’t overload your grill with foodespecially fatty meats. The basic reason behind this is if too much fat drips on the flames at once, it can cause a large flare-up.

– Use barbecue utensils with long handles (forks, tongs, etc.) to avoid burns and splatters.

After You Grill

– Make sure to clean grill to prevent build up of grease and fat in trays and below the grill. Cleaning it after you’re done will keep your grill safer for use next time.

– Let the coals from a charcoal grill completely cool before disposing in a metal container

– Never move a hot grill! Let the grill cool completely, which can take over an hour, before moving,

Enjoy your barbecues and stay safe this summer by keeping these tips in mind before you fire up the grill!

Protect Your Home From Burglars When You’re on Vacation

The start of summer means it’s time to go on vacation! Whether it’s a weekend trip to the beach, or a month long trip to Europe, vacations can leave your house vulnerable to break-ins. The FBI notes that the summer has the highest rates of burglaries. To try and prevent a burglary or limit the damage if one occurs, use this checklist before you take off.

1st step- Deterring The Burglar

The first line of defense you can have against a burglary starts with making your home appear occupied.  If a burglar thinks you’re home, they’ll move on to a home that looks uninhabited.  Think Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone- he had the right idea.

  • Have the lights inside your home on a automatic timer.  Rather than keeping your lights on the entire time, which is not environmental, not cost efficient, and does not look normal to have lights on at 3 am, a timer will make it appear as if someone is home turning the lights on and off.
  • Place your TV or a talk radio on a timer.  It will either sound like people are talking, or that someone home is watching the television.  Either way, it could be a good deterrence.
  • Stop your mail and newspaper deliveries so they don’t pile up in front of your house.  Or even better, have a friend or trust worthy neighbor grab the mail for you.  That way they can check on the house as well.
  • NEVER post on Facebook or social media that you are traveling.  You never know who can see it, and it’s a big welcome sign to burglars that your house is open.
  • The same rule applies to answering machines. Never say on your phone’s mailbox that you are away on vacation.  A simple “we can’t get to the phone right now” is a much safer option.  Also, be sure to turn off your phone’s ringer volume too.  A phone ringing with no answer could tip off a burglar that no one is home to pick up.

2nd- Make It Hard To Break-in

Research has proven that if it takes more than 4 to 5 minutes to get into your house, burglars will move on. So make it noisy and time consuming.

  • Bolt up and place a foot jam in all your doors but one.
  • If you have an alarm system, use it! Besides alerting the police, loud systems will scare away burglars and alert your neighbors of the break in. More secure system can even reduce home insurance policy up to 15-20%.
  • Have motion sensor lights around your home that are not accessible without a ladder.  Burglars will usually not use ladders as they are too conspicuous.
  • If you have any spare keys around your house, bring them in. That fake rock isn’t fooling anyone.
  • Secure all windows, your garage, and even your tool shed- you don’t want to provide the burglar with the tools to be able to break in. Lock all your windows and place stoppers with your sliding doors.

3rd- Protect As Much As Possible

If a burglar finds a way to break-in, protect as much as possible. The average dollar loss per burglary is over $1,700.  You can minimize that amount with these tips.

  • Hide/ lock up expensive jewelry in a safe.  If possible, the safest option would be to keep expensive jewelry in a bank lock box.
  • Hide/ lock up laptops, tablets, or any small electronics you can.
  • If you have any closest that locks, place expensive items in there and take the key with you.
  • Most filing cabinets come with a lock and key.  Be sure to lock important documents before you go and bring that key with you
  • For larger computers, be sure to disconnect from the internet and make personal info saved on the computer is difficult to access- you wouldn’t want the burglars to hack your accounts as well.

Enjoy your vacation this summer! We hope these to-dos keep your home safe while you’re away.  Of course, if a burglary does happen, your MassDrive agent and homeowner’s policy are here to help! Contact us at 1-877-245-9603 for any questions or concerns you may have.

pre-vacation to-do list no sub(2)

Flood Insurance Myths Debunked

Not knowing the facts on flood insurance can end up costing you your life savings. Review the flood insurance myths we debunked so you know the facts about how to protect your biggest assets.

Myth: Flood Insurance is only for those who live in high risks areas.

Unfortunately, this is not true- 25% of flood claims are for homes NOT in flood plains. While people think you must live in a flood plain to get flood insurance, this is also not true. Almost anyone who wants flood insurance can get it.

Myth: Homeowner’s policy will cover flood damage.

Your standard homeowner’s policy and umbrella policies will not cover flood damage. Flood and earthquake damage must be purchased separately. This leads to our next myth:

Myth: All water damage is treated the same.

Certain types of water damage are covered under flood insurance, while others are covered under your homeowner’s policy. During a storm, if your roof gets torn off and rain pours in, your homeowner’s policy will cover the damage. If a riverbank overflows and damages your home, your flood insurance policy will come into play.

Myth: Flood Insurance covers everything.

Understanding what your flood insurance covers is so important. Flood insurance policies max out at $250,000, which means if you have a 400,000 house with a total loss from a flood, the most you can recover through the program is $250,000 to cover the structure.

The limit for personal possessions is $100,000 under the federal program, but you can buy excess flood insurance through a private carrier that will cover claims above those national limits.

Myth: Your basement is covered.

Well, yes and no. Improvements to your basement such as finished walls, floors, and ceilings are not covered, as well as personal belongings like furniture. The structural components and essential elements such as heating and air conditioning systems will be covered under your flood insurance policy.

Myth: Flood plains do not change.

Flood plains change and evolve over the years. Just because a few years ago your home was not on a flood plain, doesn’t mean it still is not. Check FloodSmart.gov to see if your home is on a flood plain and get information on your risks. Even more important, be sure to speak to your agent to find out details on what you need to be covered.

Myth: You can’t purchase flood insurance instantly.

You can buy flood insurance anytime, BUT the policy is not in effect until after a 30-day waiting period from the first premium payment paid. The exception to this rule is if the policy is bought within 13 months of a flood map revision. If the revised Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) now shows the building in a high flood risk area, any flood insurance purchases will only have a one-day waiting period to go into effect.

To find out more information, check out FloodSmart.gov and speak to your MassDrive insurance agent.

Get Your Home Ready For Fall!

The time for apple picking, bonfires, football, pumpkins, and beautiful foliage is here.  That’s right, fall has arrived!  As the seasons change, so do the needs of our homes, which is why it’s so important to make sure yours is ready for fall.  Knowing where to start can be confusing, which is why we’ve come up with these helpful tips!

  • Inspect the outside of the home. You’ll want to make sure there’s not anything that obviously needs to be fixed, especially on the roof.  Look for any missing or damaged shingles, and clean off any debris if it’s possible to do so safely.
  • Clean out the rain gutters.  These can get filled with leaves, nests, and twigs that can weigh it down and cause more damage if not cleaned regularly.
  • Trim bushes and trees.  You should also check trees for branches that are dead.  They can break at any moment, causing serious damage to your home.  Pay close attention to  branches that are really close to power lines too.
  • Turn off your irrigation system and put hoses and equipment inside your garage or shed.  Before temperatures drop, certain irrigation systems need to be drained.  Check with a professional if you aren’t sure about yours.
  • Store away lawn furniture.  Hate to bring this up, but once the weather gets cold you won’t be spending too much time outside. Clean off your outdoor furniture and store it somewhere dry for the winter to keep in the best condition.
  • Clean the chimney and stock up on fire wood.  There’s nothing cozier than a warm fire on a cold day!  Before you bring the fire wood inside, make sure the wood is completely dry.  Storing in inside is ideal but not always an option. If you have to store it outside, keep it covered in a dry place like a shed or under a tarp.
  • Check doors and windows for drafts. If you do find one, repair it easily with caulk.
  • Install storm windows and doors. Those screens are great in warm weather to let in a nice breeze, but will cost you in energy bills in the colder months.
  • Clean out your shed and/ or garage!  Throw anything you don’t need and any junk that has collected over the last few months.  Also, move all of your summer equipment to the back and bring up fall and winter items such as rakes, sleds and shovels.
  • Be prepared!  As we’ve seen here in Massachusetts, fall and winter can be very unpredictable, so it’s best to be prepared.  Update your emergency kit, and if you have a snow blower or emergency generator, you should test them to make sure they’re working properly.  It’s also a good idea to buy extra gasoline for them, just in case.
  • Service your summer and winter equipment.  You’ll need to drain the fuel out of your lawnmower after its last use, and you may also want to have the blades sharpened so it’s ready to go again next spring.  If you have a snow blower, make sure it’s ready for use.  As we said, fall and winter can be unpredictable and you never know when we may get a storm!

Although it may not be your favorite way to spend the day, getting your home ready for the change of seasons is an important step that can save you some serious headaches later!

Fall foliage cropped

 

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