Homeowner Safety Tips

Home security

Burglars won’t find your home an “easy mark” if they are forced to work in the light, if they have to take a lot of time breaking in, or if they can’t break in without making a lot of noise.

Research shows that if it takes more than four or five minutes to break into a home, the burglar will go elsewhere.

Most insurance companies provide 2% to 15% discounts for devices that make a home safer — dead-bolt locks, window grates, bars and smoke/fire/burglar alarms.

When improving the security of your home, don’t exchange security for personal safety. Don’t make your home such a fortress that you are unable to escape in case of a fire or other emergency.

Check your home for weaknesses and correct them

1. Take the time to “case” your house or apartment, just as a burglar would. Where is the easiest entry? How can you make it more burglar-resistant?
2. Trim trees and shrubs near doors and windows, and think carefully before installing a high, wooden fence around your back yard. High fences
and shrubbery can add to your privacy, but privacy is a burglar’s asset. Consider trading a little extra privacy for a bit of added security.
3. Force any would-be burglar to confront a real enemy — light. Exterior lights and motion detectors, mounted out of easy reach, can reduce the darkness a burglar finds comforting.
4. Simple security devices — nails, screws, padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars and bolts — can increase the amount of time it takes to break into your home.
5. Invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective ones also ring at an outside service.
6. Are any of your valuables — paintings, a silver collection or a computer — easy to see from outside? Rearranging your furnishings might be advisable if it makes your home less inviting to criminals.

Simple security steps

1. Doors

Make sure you have strong doors. Outside doors should be metal or solid hardwood, and at least 1 3/4 inches thick. Frames must be made of equally strong material, and each door must fit its frame securely. Even the most efficient lock, if it is placed in a weak door, will not keep out a determined burglar.

A peephole or a wide-angle viewer in the door is safer for identifying visitors than a door chain.

Sliding glass doors present a special problem because they are easy to open, but there are locks designed for them. A broomstick in the door channel can help, but cannot be depended on.

2. Locks

Deadbolt locks are best. They usually are locked with a key from the outside and a thumb turn on the inside. The cylinder (where the key is inserted) should be pick-resistant. Ask your hardware dealer for a reputable brand or buy your locks from a locksmith.

3. Windows

Key locks are available for all types of windows. Double-hung windows can be secured simply by “pinning” the upper and lower frames together with a nail, which can be removed from the inside.

For windows at street level or on fire escapes, consider installing metal accordion gates.

Home security habits

1. Establish a routine to make certain that doors and windows are locked and alarm systems are turned on.
2. Avoid giving information to unidentified telephone callers and announcing your personal plans in want ads or public notices (such as giving your address when advertising items for sale).
3. Notify the police if you see suspicious strangers in your area.
4. Don’t carry house keys on a key ring bearing your home address or leave house keys with your car in a commercial parking lot or with an attendant.
5. Don’t hide your keys in “secret” places outside your home — burglars usually know where to look.

Vacation tips

1. Leave blinds open in their usual position.
2. Have mail and packages picked up, forwarded or held by the post office.
3. Lower the sound of your telephone ringer and answering machine so they can’t be heard outside.
4. Arrange to have your lawn mowed in summer and your walk and driveway shoveled in winter.
5. Stop newspaper deliveries.
6. Ask a friend to pick-up “throw-away” newspapers and circulars.
7. Use automatic timers to turn lights on and off in various parts of the house at appropriate times. Consider connecting a radio to a timer.
8. Tell police and dependable neighbors when you plan to be away and join with your neighbors to keep a close watch on what’s happening in your area — working closely with them is a good way to prevent crime.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Pool safety

Every year about 43,000 people are injured in and around swimming pools and more than 600 people drown in home or public pools. Half of the pool fatalities occur in the yards of single-family homes.

Here are some pool safety tips you should follow

1. Never leave small children unsupervised ñ even for a few seconds.
2. Put fencing around the pool area to keep people from using the pool without your knowledge.
3. Keep children away from pool filters, as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing.
4. Be sure all pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer.
5. Donít swim alone or allow others to swim alone.
6. Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards.
7. Keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
8. Donít allow anyone who has been drinking alcohol to use the pool.
9. Stay out of the pool during rain or lightning storms.
10. Never dive into an above-ground pool and check the water depth before plunging into an in-ground pool. Keep clear of the area near a diving board.
11. Don’t swim if you’re tired or have just finished eating.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Grilling safety

Americans enjoy more than three billion barbecues each year. But barbecuing can be dangerous or even deadly if you are not careful.

The following tips can make your grilling experience safer:

1. When ready to barbecue, protect yourself by wearing a heavy apron and an oven mitt that fits high up over your forearm.
2. With gas grills, make sure the gas cylinder is always stored outside and away from your house. Make sure the valves are turned off when you are not using them. Check regularly for leaks in the connections using a soap and water mix that will show bubbles where gas escapes.
3. Barbecue grills should be kept on a level surface away from the house, garage, landscaping, and most of all, children.
4. For charcoal grills, only use starter fluids designed for those grills. Never use gasoline and use a limited amount of starter fluid. If the fire is too slow, rekindle with dry kindling and add more charcoal if necessary. Never add more liquid fuel or you could end up with a flash fire.
5. Be sure to soak the coals with water before you put them in the trash.
6. Always remember that grills remain hot long after you are through barbecuing.

In case of an emergency

If you get burned, run cool water over the injury for 10 to 15 minutes. Never put butter or salve on burns because they will seal in the heat and cause further blistering. If you receive a serious burn the sooner you get medical attention the better.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Protecting your bike from theft

The National Bike Registry estimates that one million bicycles are stolen each year in the U.S. and only a small percentage of them are ever recovered. The annual cost to American families is more than $200 million.

The following tips can help lower the risk of having your bike stolen:

1. Lock your bike.
Unlocked bicycles are an open invitation for thieves. Whenever you are not riding your bike, it should be locked, even when itís in your garage.

2. Don’t skimp when buying a lock.
Most cable locks are easy to cut, so purchase the best lock you can afford.

3. Lock your bike correctly.
Lock both wheels and the frame to a post, pole or bike rack.

4. Register your bike with local police.
The police are able to recover bikes quickly if they are registered in advance and have the appropriate information including make, model, color and serial number. You can also register your bike with the National Bike Registry, a national database which helps recover stolen bikes.

Bicycles are covered under your homeowners or renters insurance. However, there is usually a $250 – $500 deductible. Your homeowners or renters policy also provides liability coverage in the event of a collision that results in injury to another person. There are no deductibles for liability claims.

Once you purchase a bicycle, keep the receipt for it and any accessories you add. Also, take photographs of the bike. Store these documents off-premises and alert your insurance professional to your new purchase.

If you own an expensive bike, consider purchasing a floater. This will provide more coverage than a homeowners or renters policy. For instance, in the event of an accident, a floater covers the cost of bike repairs. A floater costs approximately $9 for every $100 of the bike’s value and there are no deductibles.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Dog bite liability

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites per year. These bites cost over $1 billion, with the property/casualty insurance industry paying roughly $310 million in 1999, about 20% of total homeowners insurance liability payouts.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability. The following tips can help reduce the chances of your dog biting someone:

1. Have your dog spayed or neutered. These procedures will greatly reduce the likelihood that the dog will bite.
2. Socialize your dog so that it knows how to act with other people and animals.
3. Play non-aggressive games with your dog such as “go fetch.” Playing aggressive games like “tug-of-war” can encourage inappropriate behavior.
4. Avoid exposing your dog to situations in which you are unsure what the dogís response will be.

Insurers may charge more for certain breeds of dogs. The following purebreds have been responsible for the greatest number of dog bite-related fatalities over the 20 year period, 1979 to 1998, according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC – http://www.cdc.gov ). The breeds are listed in declining order of fatalities:* “Pit Bull”

  • Rottweiler
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • “Husky”
  • Malamute
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Chow Chow
  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Winter weather preparation

Ice, snow and wind can have devastating consequences on your home. The time to winterize is when the leaves begin to turn and not when the snow begins to fall.

Homeowners should take the following precautions:

1. Maintain gutters.
Remove leaves, acorns, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming a condition where water is unable to properly drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls. You may also consider installing “gutter guards.” Available in most hardware and home stores, gutter guards are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and direct the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.

2. Trim trees and remove dead branches.
Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break ñ damaging your home, car or injuring someone walking on your property.

3. Check insulation.
Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. The water re-freezes causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof, and can contribute to ice damming. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing.

4. Maintain pipes.
Wrap pipes with heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages that frequently have exposed pipes. Also, check for cracks and leaks. Have them repaired immediately to prevent much costlier repairs.

5. Keep the house warm.
The temperature in your house should be at least 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes from freezing.

6. Check heating systems.
The proper use and maintenance of furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves can prevent fire and smoke damage. Have furnaces, boilers and chimneys serviced at least once a year. Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly and consider installing a carbon dioxide detector.

7. Make sure steps and handrails are in good shape.
Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice. Make repairs now to prevent someone from falling and seriously being injured.

8. Get to know your plumbing.
Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent the pipes from bursting.

9. Hire a licensed contractor.
Have a professional survey your home for any structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired immediately so further damage will not occur during the winter. Also, find out about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump-pumps and other methods can prevent damage to your home and belongings.

10. Take special care if you plan to be away from home.
If you are not going to be in your home this winter for an extended period of time, have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting. Also, hire someone to check on your home on a regular basis. If there is a problem, it can be fixed quickly – lessening any damage. Activity at your home will also reduce the likelihood that it will be burglarized.

Standard homeowners policies cover winter-related disasters such as burst pipes, ice dams, wind damage caused by weight of ice or snow.

Damage to homes caused by flooding is usually excluded from most standard homeowner policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program ( http://www.fema.gov/nfip/a_facts.htm ) Ask your insurance professional about flood insurance, as well as specific advice about winter-proofing your home.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

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