Fire Safety for the Home

The National Fire Protection Association’s fire prevention program promotes the following eight tips that people of all ages and abilities can use to keep family members safe, especially during the threat of a house fire.

  1. Plan and practice your escape from fire.
    We’ve heard this advice before, but you can’t be prepared to act in an emergency if you don’t have a plan and everybody knows what that plan is.  Panic and fear can spread as quickly as a fire, so map out an escape route and a meeting place outdoors, and involve even the youngest family members so that everyone can work as a unit to make a safe escape.  If you live in a condo or apartment building, make sure you read the signs posted on your floor advising you of the locations of stairways and other exits, as well as alarm pull stations and fire extinguishers.
  2. Plan your escape around your abilities.
    Keeping a phone by your bedside will allow you to call 911 quickly, especially if the exits of your home are blocked by smoke or flames.  Keep a pair of shoes near your bed, too.  If your home or building has a fire escape, take some time to practice operating it and climbing it.
  3. Smoke alarms save lives.
    If you don’t already have permanently installed smoke alarms hard-wired into your electrical system and located outside each bedroom and on each floor, purchase units and place them in those locations.  Install them using adhesive or screws, but be careful not to touch your screwdriver to any internal wiring, which can cause an electrostatic discharge and disable them.  Also, install carbon monoxide detectors, which can protect family members from lethal poisoning even before a fire starts.
  4. Give space heaters space. 
    Whether saving on utility bills by using the furnace infrequently, or when using these portable units for spot heating, make sure you give them at least 3 feet of clearance.  Be sure to turn off and unplug them when you leave or go to bed.  Electrical appliances draw current even when they’re turned off, and a faulty unit can cause a fire that can spread through the wires in the walls at a deadly pace.
  5. If you smoke, smoke outside. 
    Not only will this keep your family members healthier and your home smelling fresher, it will minimize the chance that an errant ember from your cigarette will drop and smolder unnoticed until it causes damage.
  6. Be kitchen-wise.
    This means monitoring what you have on the stove and keeping track of what’s baking in the oven.  Don’t cook if you’re tired or taking medication that clouds your judgment or makes you drowsy.  Being kitchen-wise also means wearing clothing that will not easily catch on the handles of pots and pans, or graze open flames or heating elements.  It also means knowing how to put out a grease fire:  water will make it spread, but salt or baking soda will extinguish it quickly, as will covering the pot or pan with a lid and turning off the stove.  Always use your cooktop’s vent fan while cooking.  Also, keep a small, all-purpose fire extinguisher in a handy place, such as under the sink.  These 3-pound lifesavers are rated “ABC” for their fire-suppressing contents. Read the instructions on these inexpensive devices when you bring them home from the store so that you can act quickly, if the time comes.
  7. Stop, drop and roll.
    Fight the urge to panic and run if your clothes catch fire because this will only accelerate its spread, since fire needs oxygen to sustain and grow.  Tamping out the fire by rolling is effective, especially since your clothes may be on fire on your back or lower body where you may not be immediately aware of it.  If ground space is limited, cover yourself with a blanket to tamp out any flames, and douse yourself with water as soon as you can.  Additionally, always stay close to the floor during a fire; heat and smoke rise, and breathable air will normally be found at the floor-level, giving you a greater chance of escape before being overcome by smoke and toxic fumes.
  8. Know your local emergency number. 
    People of all ages need to know their emergency number (usually, it’s 911).  Posting it near the phone and putting it on speed-dial will save precious moments when the ability to think clearly may be compromised.

Keep your family safe by following these simple tips!

Garage Door Safety

The garage door is the largest moving object in a house. Its parts are under high tension. All repairs and adjustments should be performed by a trained garage door systems technician. To find a technician, visit the International Door Association website. If the garage door appears inoperable or out of plumb, do not attempt to operate the garage door opener. If the door appears plumb, you can perform some basic testing to ensure that your garage door is operating as it should.

Photo-Electric Eyes

Federal law states that residential garage door openers manufactured after 1992 must be equipped with photo-electric eyes or some other safety-reverse feature. If the garage door has an opener, check to see if photo-electric eyes are installed. They should be near the floor, mounted to the left and right sides of the bottom door panel. The beam of the photo-electric eyes should not be higher than 6 inches above the floor.

Non-Contact Reversal Test

This check applies to door systems that are equipped with photo-electric eyes. Standing inside the garage and safely away from the path of the door, use the remote control or wall button to close the door. As the door is closing, wave an object in the path of the photo-electric eye beam. The door should immediately reverse and return to the fully-open position.

Contact Reversal Test

This check applies to doors with openers when the opener’s force setting has been properly set, and when the opener reinforcement bracket is securely and appropriately attached to the door’s top section. If you’re concerned that a contact reversal test may cause damage to the garage door or its components, don’t do it.

Otherwise, begin this test with the door fully open. Under the center of the door, place a 2×4 piece of wood flat on the floor in the path of the door. Standing inside the garage but safely away from the path of the door, use the wall push button to close the door. When the door contacts the wood, the door should automatically reverse direction and return to the fully-open position.

If your garage door fails or is slow to respond to any of these tests, contact a qualified technician who can check for any necessary repairs or upgrades.

Safe Railings & Stairs at Porches & Decks

Most DIY homeowners (and a surprising number of contractors) aren’t aware that the railings and stairs at decks and porches should follow certain measurements for safety.  This is especially important for households with children and/or visitors with children.
Here are some basic rules for steps:
  • Most deck stairs have open risers (the vertical space between stairs) that are not safe for children, as well as adults who may step too far into the tread or surface of the step.  Risers may be open but should not allow the passage of a sphere 4 inches in diameter.  Another way to make an open-riser stairway safer is to increase the depth of the tread.
  • It’s typical for steps or risers in the same stairway to be of slightly unequal heights, but the difference between the shortest and tallest (including the very bottom step) should not exceed 3/8-inch.  This is to ensure that a person’s natural stride is not interrupted, which can otherwise lead to tripping.
  • A smooth and graspable handrail should be provided on at least one side of a stairway having four or more steps.  A handrail is considered graspable if the average person can hold onto it using a natural grip for balance and support.  It should also be between 34 and 38 inches high.
  • Outdoor lighting at steps is essential for night-time safety.  Solar-powered stake units are a low-cost and energy-efficient option.
Here are some rules for railings:
  • The guardrail surrounding a deck or porch should be supported by posts at least every 6 feet.  This includes most decks that are higher than 12 inches above adjacent areas.
  • The spindles or balusters between the posts should be less than 4 inches apart to prevent children from slipping through or becoming stuck between them.
  • Balusters should be vertical rather than horizontal or ladder-type to prevent anyone from climbing on them and damaging them or hurting themselves.
If you suspect that your deck or porch doesn’t meet these guidelines, a tape measure will help ensure your family’s and guests’ safety.  Check with your local building department for code compliance and other requirements.

10 Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

  1. Plunger:

    A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems. With a plunger on hand, you can usually get the water flowing again fast. It’s best to have two plungers: one for the sink and one for the toilet.

  2. Combination Wrench Set:

    One end of a combination wrench is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, so it’s handy to have set of different sizes in both types. For the most leverage, always pull the wrench toward you. Also, avoid over-tightening.

  3. Slip-Joint Pliers:

    Use these to grab hold of a nail, nut, bolt, and much more. These pliers are versatile because of their jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many things. They also have a built-in slip-joint, which allows you to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

  4. Adjustable Wrench:

    It can be somewhat awkward to use at first, but an adjustable wrench is ideal when you need wrenches of different sizes. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging a bolt or nut.

  5. Caulking Gun:

    Caulking is a quick way to seal up gaps in tile, cracks in concrete, and leaks in certain types of piping. Caulking can provide thermal insulation and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.

  6. Flashlight:

    None of the tools you own will be of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem—and solution—are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.  Of course, having backups at home (as well as in all your vehicles) is a must for emergency situations.

  7. Tape Measure: 

    Measuring house projects requires a tape measure—not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although one that is at least 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy, regardless of the project.

  8. Hacksaw: 

    A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.  Use a stable surface for cutting, and use caution, as a hacksaw injury can be painful and deep.

  9. Torpedo Level: 

    Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal and vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle—not merely close.

  10. Safety Glasses / Goggles: 

    For all tasks involving a hammer, saw or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals, install insulation, and do major renovation projects involving tear-downs of building materials, such as drywall, because anything that can go airborne upon destruction can wind up in your eyes, causing irritation or injury.

Dryer Vent Maintenance For Safety

Did you know that your dryer vents and ducts need to be cleaned every year? If they are not thoroughly cleaned, the consequences could be deadly.

Several variables can influence the required frequency of dryer system cleaning: the number of people in your home, the frequency of clothes washing, lifestyle (sports and/or outdoor activities), etc.

Some dryers are connected directly to an exterior wall, reducing the duct length. However, others may exhaust upward through the roof or they may be located in the middle of the home. What does this mean? Long dryer ducts provide more opportunity for lint buildup. An uncleaned system may lead to

  • higher utility bills
  • clothing that shrinks or gets damaged by heat
  • reduced life expectancy of the dryer
  • a house fire.

That’s right—fire. In fact, some 15,500 fires, 310 injuries, and 10 deaths are attributed each year to dryer fires, according to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

If you haven’t already, put your dryer vent on a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule.

Here are some links to help:

Dryer Safety: dryersafety.org

How to Clean Your Dryer Vent and Other Quick Tips: consumerreports.org/clothes-dryers/how-to-clean-your-dryer-vent

Find a Certified Professional in Your Area: csia.org

Burglary Facts

  • Every 14.6 seconds a burglary takes place in the United States.
  • Most burglaries occur during the day, between the hours of 10am and 3pm.
  • Burglars spend an average of just 10 minutes in the home, creating an average loss of $2,000, not to mention, stealing personal identification information like checks, credit card statements and passports.

*US DOJ – FBI

The best defense against burglary is prevention.

With a little planning you can reduce your home’s “curb appeal” to burglars, increase your safety, and dramatically reduce your odds of becoming another statistic.

With the peak months for burglaries just ahead, A Superior Inspection, LLC and Federal Protection, Inc. would like to help prevent you from becoming a victim with the following information and practical tips.

The Usual Suspects – Burglars drive through neighborhoods looking for homes that appear to be vacant and with few obstacles to gaining entry. They are typically young males, (13 to 25 years of age) Often supporting a drug habit, which make them particularly dangerous and desperate.

They are looking for the path of least resistance and don’t want to get caught. Therefore, you’ll want to harden the target and draw attention to them in case they do gain access.

Tips to “Harden the Target and Draw Attention”

Be a Good Neighbor – Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. Let your neighbors know when you’ll be gone so they can set your trash out and pick up your mail and papers. Also consider leaving a car in the driveway, interior lights and/or even a television on when you are away.

Lock it Up – Don’t leave valuables like bicycles and expensive gas grills out in plain view and ALWAYS lock all your doors and windows when you’re away. 1/3 of all burglars gain access through an unlocked door or window. Sliding glass doors should also be secured with pins or a “Charlie bar” in the track. For long trips, consider using the slide lock on your garage door and unplugging your opener.

Light it Up – Make sure exterior lights illuminate all entrances to your home. Consider Motion Lights and Make sure your house numbers are well-lit and clearly visible from the road to help responding authorities find your home during a burglary or other emergency.

Make ‘Em Famous – Don’t give burglars a place to hide.

  • Remember the 2:6 Rule: Keep bushes and shrubs trimmed to two feet off the ground and tree limbs trimmed to no lower than six feet. This will provide neighbors and others passing by an unobstructed view of your residence.
  • Consider surveillance cameras for the exterior of your home. Cameras provide a definite deterrent to a would-be burglar as they do not want the risk of being identified.
  • Consider a professionally installed, centrally monitored home security system. Even a modest burglar alarm will provide immediate response and cause the intruder to flee, knowing the authorities are being dispatched.

IF YOU SUSPECT A BURGLARY HAS TAKEN PLACE

  • Do NOT enter!
  • Do NOT confront suspects
  • Do call the police or sheriff office immediately from a safe location
  • Do provide dispatcher with all necessary information (including suspect/vehicle descriptions and direction of travel and follow the dispatcher’s directions).
Perry Workman
Security Consultant
Federal Protection, Inc
417-493-8159
pworkman@federalprotection.com
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Deck Repair

PSA: Building code requirements are the bare minimum allowed when constructing something that people can occupy. While a home inspection does not cite code, we do want to ensure our clients can live safely in their home. The majority of code is to make sure occupants are safe. For Example: I encourage you to take a look at your deck and deck structure. Often as homeowners, we don’t pay close attention to these structures and before you know it, they can fail. If you do happen to catch a deteriorated component make sure, at the bare minimum, its updated to current code. This deck that I inspected hit the trifecta of neglect, failure and improper repair. If you are adventurous I invite you to google, DECK FAILURE, and you will see NEW and OLD decks that have failed. I am always available by phone or email for a consultation if you have any questions.

Dishwasher Owners

Dishwasher Owners!!!! Recently I have been asked, “In your reports, why do you always mention that the dishwasher drain line does not have an air gap?” Here is why AND why everyone should verify correct installation ASAP. (And it likely won’t cost you a dime.) The dirty/grey water from your sink WILL drain into your clean dishwasher. Picture 1 – grey dishwater backing up into the dishwasher. Picture 2 – Less than a year old garbage disposal with an organic buildup flowing back into the dishwasher. Most dishwashers, depending on brand, won’t allow this size of organic material to pass through the screens. So the BLACK material is likely organic material from the sink/garbage disposal. Picture 3 – 10 yr old drain line with NO organic material because of proper installation. Picture 4 – Proper installation of dishwasher drain lines.

Home Value

Part of owning a home is the hopeful idea that it will appreciate in value with time. The appreciation of value over time is considered an investment. So the general goal if most homeowners is to be able to make money off the home by renting or selling the house.

The disconnect I have experienced over the last 10 years as a residential and commercial contractor, is the assumption that day to day life in a home is enough to maintain the home. The unfortunate reality is that ALL natural components used in construction WILL breakdown over time. Repair or replacement of ALL building components is inevitable. Even man-made materials, if not in perfect conditions, will fail. (Ie. Plastics in proximity to excessive heat, pressure, etc.)

My mission is to educate and encourage property owners about the importance of vigilant proactive maintenance to ensure your investment continues to appreciate in value and assist in your success.30