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Space Heater Safety Tips – Don’t Get Burned

Space Heater Safety Tips – Don’t Get Burned

Winter is officially in full swing, and that means many of us will start to get out the portable heaters to combat those brisk nights and chilly mornings- that is, of course if you haven’t done that already. space heater

Used properly, portable heaters are a godsend, but it’s extremely important to pay attention to the possible dangers associated with that trusty little plug-in heater.

Portable heaters are responsible for an estimated 25,000+ home fires each year, causing terrible burns to thousands of people. Imagine how you’d feel if not paying attention to a simple appliance caused the destruction of your home or hurt your family.

That’s why you should follow these Space Heater Safety Tips 

  • Never use an unvented combustion heater indoors (safety experts recommend electric heaters instead)
  • Only purchase or use newer models that have current safety features and the Underwriter Laboratory (UL) label
  • Keep the heater on a hard, level, non-flammable surface such as ceramic tile
  • Make sure the heater is at least three feet away from flammables like bedding, drapes, furniture, and papers
  • Keep pets and children away from space heaters
  • Always turn the heater off when you leave the area
  • Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep
  • Check to see if it has a tip-over safety switch that will automatically turn it off if it falls over
  • Avoid using extension cords and never run the cord under carpeting or mats

Pro Tip: these safety tips also apply when turning on the heat for the entire house. If you haven’t already, the National Fire Protection Association recommends us to have our heating system, or chimney, checked and serviced each year by a qualified heating and cooling professional to make sure it’s fire safe and there are no carbon monoxide leaks. It is also recommended to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors during this time.

 

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Related Articles:

Fire Prevention Tips for the Holidays

Holiday Light Safety

The 6 Most At-Risk Fire Areas of Your Home

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or visit www.calcas.com.

New Year’s Eve Party Safety

New Year’s Eve Party Safety

We are about to turn the calendars to welcome in the beginning of a new decade – 2020!

Tonight, millions will gather around the world to ring in the New Year, and if you are hosting a New Year’s Eve party, remember; safety is the number one priority. Every year, people are hurt from slips, falls, and other numerous dangers associated with drunken New Year’s celebrations.

Here are some important party-planning safety tips you need to consider if you’ll be hosting a gathering to celebrate the arrival of 2020.

    • Clear decks, steps, and sidewalks of tripping  hazards
    • Keep pets locked or gated in a room away from the commotion
    • Remove jewelry or other valuables from areas where guests might be
    • Use battery-operated candles instead of flammable ones
    • Avoid setting off or using fireworks
    • Don’t leave food on stoves or in ovens unattended
    • Check for food allergies before serving any dishes
    • Keep foods warmed or cooled to proper temperatures to avoid foodborne illnesses
    • Limit alcohol consumption
    • Arrange for designated drivers, ride-sharing, or provide a place to stay for inebriated guests

Unfortunately, even when you take the best precautions, accidents can happen. But don’t fear, a homeowners or renters insurance policy with high liability limits will help protect you if the worst should happen. That’s why you should contact a California Casualty advisor today to make sure you are fully covered for the holidays.

Don’t forget to ask about special coverages for high-value gifts like jewelry, musical instruments or fine art when you call 1.800.800.9410 or visit www.calcas.com.

 

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This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters and nurses. Get a quote at 1.800.800.9410 or www.calcas.com.

 

End of the Year Home Inventory

End of the Year Home Inventory

The Holidays are over, and that means it’s time to find room for all of the new Christmas gifts that you received over the holidays. The easiest way to keep track of all of your possessions is creating- and continually updating- a Home Inventory.

A Home Inventory is a list of the valuable objects that you have inside of your home.

It may sound like a waste of time, but this list will be your saving grace if there is a fire, destructive storm, or if someone breaks in and steals your belongings. Without one many people have a difficult time pinpointing or recalling everything that might have been destroyed or taken, and unfortunately, that can delay homeowner claims or keep you from getting your full compensation.

So, when the New Year rolls around make the time to take inventory of your home and all of your new treasures. It’s easy! Just go room by room and document:

  • Electronics
  • Personal Care Items
  • Jewelry
  • Art
  • Kitchen items and appliances
  • Furniture
  • Carpeting
  • Beds and linens
  • Clothing
  • Sports equipment
  • Tools

Don’t forget to take pictures of the exterior of your home as well -photos are best from all angels- including the landscaping and any decks or porches- and also take note of everything in the garage, attic, or basement, like holiday ornaments, lawn and yard equipment, tools, etc.

You can choose to write everything down, but we suggest to use photo/video documentation of your belongings. To make the whole process easier on you we’ve created a Household Inventory Checklist that walks you through each possession you may have, so you don’t forget anything- you can even document the value. Just attach your photos to the document or put them in a folder on your phone and you are good to go! Click here for the checklist.

Trying to tally up what needs to be replaced is not something you want to do in the event of a claim, so taking the time to complete an inventory will be more than worth it. You can even use the time to get rid of the old and make room for all of the new!

 

Related Articles:

Too Late is Too Late: Why You Need a Home Inventory

5 Things Not Covered By Most Home Insurance Policies

Protect Your Home and Family- Know It. Do It.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

Holiday Light Safety

Holiday Light Safety

Author, Sheryl Turner, is a grant writer for Nenana Volunteer Fire/EMS Department in Alaska and a member of the National Volunteer Fire Council.

Hi, Everyone…This past weekend we spent quality time with our Goddaughter and her family in Carlsbad, California. My husband and I live in Alaska, and our Goddaughter and her family live in Arizona. Best place to meet? Carlsbad works every time. Like many, we were celebrating the Holidays, enjoying being together and telling stories from years gone by. One of the subjects that came up was how decorating for the Holidays has changed over the years. This year, especially, we noticed that some stores started as early as October, just before or after Halloween, setting up Christmas displays and selling artificial trees! It surprised some of us that families seem to have also started decorating their Christmas trees a lot sooner than they have in past years.

As we drove around San Diego, La Jolla, and Carlsbad, California, we could not believe how many lights we saw. I told the kids that when my husband and I left Indiana last Thursday night, December 5th, I had never seen so many houses decorated, inside and out, this early in the season. The one thing that really surprised us, was how many people are using a traditional real pine tree, while others have elected to use an artificial tree.

As we discussed differences in the use of traditional or an artificial tree, our conversation shifted to sharing our thoughts on lights and decorations. Seeing that my husband and I have a law enforcement background and are now volunteers with the Nenana Volunteer Fire/EMS Department in Nenana, Alaska, and our Goddaughter’s family is with the Yuma, Arizona Fire Department, and the Department of Law Enforcement and Security at United States Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona, it did not take long for our conversation to shift and stay on the home fires caused by Christmas trees, and discuss tips and reminders that may help keep this year a safe and fire-free Holiday Season.

Our Goddaughter and I did some research online to see how many home fires are actually caused by faulty wiring, bad light bulbs, etc. (NFPA.org has really good information and Background Information). We checked various sights and compared the information. Overall, they all agree:

  •  Between the years of 2013-2017, U.S. Fire Departments responded to an average of 160 home fires per year that started with the Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of three deaths, fifteen injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
  •  On the average of every 52 reported, home fires began with a Christmas tree, resulted in a death. Compared to an average of one death per 135 total reported home fires.
  •  Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 44% of home Christmas tree fires.
  •  In 25% of the Christmas tree fires, a fire started because, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment was too close to the tree.
  •  Approximately 1/5 (21%) of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
  • Roughly ¾ of Christmas tree fires occurred in December or January.
  • Two of every five (39%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room.

Although we are well into the 2019 Holiday Season, we still need to remember fires do not start themselves. Remembering a few simple tips about protecting your home and family, and possibly your local firefighters, is a great place to start:

  1.  Place Your Christmas Tree in a Safe Place: Make sure when you put up your tree, it is at least three feet away from any heat sources, like radiators, fireplaces, and heating vents.
  2.  Check Light Strands Before Putting Them on the Tree – Before you begin decorating, make sure the wires on your lights are not frayed. Check each strand and replace lights for cracked, chipped, or unlit bulbs. Make sure the lights are working correctly.
  3.  Lights Out – Always turn the Christmas lights off before you go to bed.
  4.  Plug No More Than Three Strings of Lights into One Plug –  Plugging in more than three sets of Christmas lights into a single extension cord can be dangerous. Doing so may cause problems with overheating. However, it depends on both the strand’s wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the plug. If you are unsure of how to check the wattage, you can use a power strip with a built-in circuity breaker instead of your wall outlet.
  5.  LED Lights – If lights you are using are getting too hot, substitute and use LED Lights. They are not as hot as the traditional lights.
  6.  Hydrate Your Tree – It is important to keep your Christmas tree hydrated. Remember, other than overheated Christmas lights, fires are also caused by dry Christmas trees. A dry tree will be more flammable compared to the one that’s been properly watered. If you prefer a real Christmas tree, make sure you check the water every day to prevent the tree from drying out. However, if you’re not too attached to a real Christmas tree, it’s actually safer to purchase an artificial Christmas tree made from fire-resistant materials.
  7.  Take Your Tree Down – Don’t keep your Christmas tree up for very long. Once the needles begin to fall, the tree becomes at more risk of a fire starting.
  8.  Outdoor and Indoor Lights – Use outdoor lights outside and indoor lights inside. Christmas lights are labeled by their use, so you’ll notice a disclaimer that reads “for indoor use only” or “for indoor and outdoor use.” Make sure you read this carefully as indoor-only Christmas lights cannot be used for the outdoors. Indoor-only lights aren’t insulated like outdoor lights and won’t work with moisture from the outdoors. In fact, if indoor lights are exposed to water, snow or any other outdoor element, they could possibly become hazardous.
  9.  Use of Ladders – Since falls are the highest emergency room-related injury during the holidays, it’s important to know how to safely use a ladder when hanging Christmas lights off the roof of your home or in any other space that would require a ladder. Have a spotter with you at all times to hold the ladder for stability. When hanging Christmas lights, never extend your body further than parallel with the ladder to prevent tipping. Consider a wooden or fiberglass ladder when you’re working with Christmas lights to prevent an electric shock.
  10.  Use Christmas Light Clips, instead of nails or screws, when hanging outdoor Christmas lights on your roof. Don’t use nails or screws to secure the lights as they can puncture the wires, causing the lights to malfunction, or worse, shock the person installing them. Instead, opt for light clips found at any hardware store to secure the lights onto the house. The light clips are safer for the Christmas lights and will cause less damage to your roof, compared to nails or screws.
  11.  Need to Use an Extension Cord ? – If you need to use an extension cord or have a long strand of lights between your Christmas tree and outlet, make sure you secure all loose light strands with electrical tape to avoid tripping and falling. If you have loose light strands outdoors, secure them with ground staples found at any hardware store. Simply place the staple around the light and push as far as you can into the grass or other soft surfaces to secure the cord.
  12.  If you don’t have access to an outdoor outlet, you may find it challenging to light up your home this holiday season. Remember that you can’t run Christmas lights or extension cords through windows or doors. When closed on the light strand, windows and doors can cause wires to break or become frayed from constant pressure, making them a safety hazard for shocks or electric fires.
  13.  Use A GFCI Outlet for Outdoor Lights – There’s a specific outlet used for outdoor Christmas lights called a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. It prevents electric shock from electrical – systems that could be exposed to wet conditions, like rain or snow, acting as a circuit breaker. This is especially helpful if your outlet is outdoors. Make sure you protect yourself and your home from electric shorts by purchasing a GFCI outlet. You might need to hire a licensed electrician to install this outlet or you can install it yourself.
  14.  Don’t Forget to Turn Off the Lights – Christmas tree lights should not be left on for prolonged periods of time or overnight. Even LED lights can overheat, and with a combination of a dry Christmas tree, could cause a fire. Make it a habit to turn off your Christmas lights every time you leave the house or go to bed at night. To make it easier, purchase a light timer for your Christmas tree lights and set it to a time to turn off every night and back on the next day. You can also buy a wireless control to shut off your lights through an app on your phone. Not only could this save your home from a fire, but it could also save you money in electricity bills.
  15.  Be Sure to Store Lights Properly Until Next Season – When the holiday season is over, make sure you don’t slack on putting away your decorations. Check the local laws of your city for how long you can keep up your holiday decorations. Some cities will ticket homes who have their holiday decorations up past a certain date. Store all outdoor and indoor Christmas lights in a well-sealed container to prevent water damage and rodent access. Knowing how to properly install and maintain your Christmas lights could save you money in electricity bills, prevent you or a loved one from getting an electric shock and eliminate the chance of a home fire. Follow these tips this holiday season to keep you and your home safe.

We all need to stay aware of what is happening around us. Be observant. Watch for Christmas lights that are not working; something against the cord that could start a fire; animals climbing the Christmas tree and being in danger; leaving lights on when no one is home; not turning lights off before going to bed. Remind our families, colleagues, friends, everyone about the chances of Christmas trees starting a home fire that cannot be stopped. It only takes a spark to start a fire…

My family and I wish you all a very happy and safe holiday.

Sheryl TurnerSheryl Ann Turner
Grant Writer
Nenana Volunteer Fire/EMS Department

Preparing Your Home for Holiday Guests

Preparing Your Home for Holiday Guests

No doubt, one of the best parts about the Holiday Season is gathering and spending time with close family and friends, but when you are the host it can become a bit stressful. With Christmas just one shy week away here are a few last-minute tips to help you and your home become guest-ready in a matter of hours!

 

Declutter

Or at least declutter public areas. There is no need to go all out and scrub every inch of your house from top to bottom (but if you want to, go for it!). Just make sure public areas, entryways, and guest rooms are clean and ready to be seen by dusting and packing away all unnecessary items that normally just take up space. Pro Tip: consider donating the items you find that you barely use.

 

Make Sure You Have Enough Seating

Your guests probably won’t want to stand all night, so make sure you have seating to accommodate at least the majority of them. If you are low on seating, it may be wise to invest in some extra barstools that could be used in multiple places, like the living area and the kitchen.

 

Add Light

Christmas Lights are easy décor that can brighten up space and make it look festive and inviting all in one. Just be sure you don’t have cords dangling everywhere that your guests could trip on! Another quick and easy light source are candles. Find a perfect Christmas scent and let it burn all night in a safe space away from flammable objects.

 

Stock Your Fridge

Make sure you have enough items that will please every guest. This doesn’t mean cook for everyone individually, it could be as simple as getting an assorted meat and veggie tray or cooking one entrée and having your guests bring side dishes and desserts. Don’t stress out and feel like you have to feed an army by yourself, as long as there is variety people will be happy. Pro Tip: stock up on coffee.

 

Make Extra Supplies Easily Accessible

Get out your extra cups and silverware days before guests arrive, that way you aren’t scrambling to make sure you have enough supplies.  Set out extra pillows and blankets in guest rooms and place towels and toiletries out in the open, so they can be found easily by guests. This way there is no confusion at the end of the night when everyone is settling in.

 

Play Background Music

Nothing is worse than an awkward silence, so keep the party going- even when conversation stops- by filling the silence with some Christmas Background music. Pull up Spotify on your phone and play it through your TV or any Alexa Device and you are good to go. We even have a Christmas Playlist already created for you! Visit: https://spoti.fi/2r1wIZk

 

Lastly, make sure you have personal liability coverage. Most people assume that their home insurance will provide all the liability coverage they need in case a guest has an accident on their property, but this isn’t always true. Personal liability umbrella insurance gives you an extra layer of insurance protection. This can be critical if someone is injured in your home or on your property.

Hosting can be hectic, so don’t be afraid to ask for help! Holidays should be cherished, not dreaded.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, from all of us at California Casualty!

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

 

Fire Prevention Tips for the Holidays

Fire Prevention Tips for the Holidays

As you bustle about getting ready for the holidays, please be careful. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, the season comes with an increased risk. Home fires peak this time of year and the joy of the holiday season can turn tragic if you don’t take these precautions. Here are some Fire Prevention Tips for the Holidays to keep you and your family safe.

In the Kitchen

The majority of home fires start in the kitchen. Whether you are frying a turkey or baking a pie, keep aware and be present. The majority of these fires were caused by leaving something on the stove, in the oven, and placing flammable material too close to a burner. More cooking fires occur during the holiday season than any other days of the year. Please observe these safe kitchen and cooking recommendations:

  • Never leave food on the stove or in the oven unattended
  • Always keep dishtowels, mitts and other flammables away from burners
  • Remove long sleeves or other loose clothing that could come in contact with burners or flames
  • Avoid consuming alcohol when cooking
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand
  • Have a lid nearby to smother small grease fires

 

Holiday Trees and Decorations

Fire departments across the country are warning about the increased danger as we bring in trees and light up our homes. The over the past few years, Christmas trees caused an average of 210 home structure fires, with most occurring during the month of December. The incidence of candles caused fires also escalates during the holidays.

Here are some important tips to prevent holiday fires

  • Make sure real trees are fresh and needles don’t fall off when touched
  • Cut two inches from the base of the trunk and immediately put it in a stand with water
  • Add water every day
  • Keep trees at least three feet from any heat source (fireplaces, space heaters, candles, heat vents)
  • Check artificial trees for a “fire-resistant” label
  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory (UL)
  • Always turn off tree lights before going to bed or leaving home
  • Never use candles to decorate a tree
  • If you use real candles around the home, keep them 12 inches away from anything that can burn and always blow them out when you leave a room or go to bed
  • Don’t use frayed or damaged electrical cords
  • Never connect more than one extension cord and make sure they are not stretched

 

 

California Casualty wants everyone to have a safe and happy holiday.

 

Related Articles:

5 Proven Tips for Fighting Winter Fires

What You Need to Know About Smoke Detectors & House Fires

Guest Blog: Tips for Homeowners and Renters from a Fire Prevention Officer

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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