Archives for Safety

fire

Help Protect Your Home While You Are Away This Summer

(June, 2017) – The seasons officially changes to summer this month, (woohoo!) and with that many people start to book their summer-time vacations. And for most, this means travel with extended periods of time away from their homes. In the property restoration business we often see the damaging results of people being away from their homes, and more-often-than-not, these damages could have been minimized with some preventive measures.

The easiest trick to prevent major water damage in your home while your away is to turn off the water main. By turning the water main off, you eliminate continuous water flow for the entire time you are away. If a dishwasher, or laundry machine supply line were to come off, only the water in the system would leak into your home – not an endless supply! You can also reduce the amount of water in the plumbing lines by draining the system. To drain the plumbing lines, turn on the lowest level tap in your home, a basement bathroom sink or basement laundry room tub is ideal. Just remember to turn that tap off before you turn the water back on, as you may spray water everywhere upon return from your vacation. This whole procedure should only take you 5 minutes, and can save you from having a major water damage disaster.

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                                                                                                                                                              Extensive water damage to a finished basement

Another easy trick is to unplug as many electronics as you can., i.e., toasters, coffee makers, cell-phone chargers, and curling irons. Pay particular attention to laptops or computers. These devices can get very hot, causing an electrical short and sparks. Make sure especially with laptops that they are clear of bedding, couches and curtains/drapery. Over the years we have seen several fire losses where the laptop was left accidentally on a soft surface and the machine overheated and sparked a massive fire.
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                                                                                                                                                                         Bedroom fire on the second floor

And thirdly, we highly recommend you have someone check your home every other day. Not only is this usually a requirement of most home insurance policies, it also gives you a peace of mind that you home is being properly taken care of. Also, there are several smart-home solutions that can help add to your peace-of-mind. Video monitoring, and remote climate control are just some of the affordable new solutions on the market today – something our grandparents never had access to!

Hopefully these simply tips help you enjoy you vacation even more, knowing everything is safe and sound when you return home.

Safe travels and thanks for reading,

Matt Douglas, AAS, ASD, WRT
CRCS DKI
www.crcsdk.com

 

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spring time house maintenance

Spring is Here – Some Easy Maintenance and Prevention Tips for Around the House

Spring is in the air, and it is a great time to check out your home for any winter damage, and also do some preventive maintenance. This month’s blog-post comes courtesy of our nearest DKI Canada neighbor, Sara Pasternak of Con-Tech DKI.

Spring is Here – Some Easy Maintenance and Prevention Tips for Around the House

Spring has sprung! Along with the benefits of warm weather, bright colours and sunshine come risks for your home. It is important to properly prepare your home for the various risks that can be present during spring time.  The first thing that you want to do is CHECK YOUR GUTTERS. Make certain all gutters are free of any debris; remove any blocks in gutters and outdoor faucets. Also ensure all downspouts are facing away from your foundation to avoid water buildup.  Make sure to also check ROOF SHINGLES. If any damage has occurred during the winter months it is best that it is looked after sooner rather than later in order to avoid future issues. Please remember if you will be using a ladder during any of these tasks, DON’T BE LIKE THIS GUY:   ladder

While you are prepping the outside of your home for spring it is a good idea to check all caulking around windows & doors. Gaps or cracks in caulking leaves room for moisture and other dangers to enter your home, so be sure to replace any damaged caulking. Speaking of cracks, make sure to check for any cracks around your home. This includes patios, walkways and any other outdoor surfaces. Any cracks or damages are an open invitation for water to enter and damage your home.

After a long winter it is always a good idea to check around your home for any visible leaks. This includes anything that is readily visible on both the outside and inside of your home. Catching a leak early, before it has time to do any serious damage is the first step in avoiding costly repairs.

Inspect all outdoor amenities before using them for the spring season. This includes your air conditioning units, gas BBQ’s, outdoor faucets, outdoor lights etc. Not only can this keep your home safe, by revealing any issues with the appliance/amenity prior to there being a problem, but regular maintenance can also help various outdoor appliances last longer as well. Please ensure to check all appliances in a safe manner. If this is not possible please make sure to contact a professional DON’T BE LIKE THIS GUY:
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LASTLY, please ensure to do regular checks around the interior of your home as well. This includes, appliances, heating and air conditioning systems, faucets, hoses, pipes, fireplaces, air filters etc. Regular maintenance of your home on both the interior and exterior can help prevent any stressful or costly damages in the future, and FINALLY enjoy the warm weather! You deserve it! ☀

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LET THERE BE SPARKS…BUT NOT FIRE

LET THERE BE SPARKS…BUT NOT FIRE

fire damaged kitchen before

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and cupid has his arrow targeting many couples to create an evening filled with love and romance. Some of the most popular components of these romantic evenings are candlelight, snuggling in front of a warm, glowing fire and of course a lovingly prepared home cooked dinner.   Aside from the romantic ambiance, these elements also have something else in common…fire hazard.

The last thing anyone wants to spoil a beautiful, romantic evening with your partner is to have to call the fire department to extinguish an accidental fire.

Our friends at Foley Restoration DKI would like to offer these easy fire safety tips to ensure your evening fans the flames of desire…not the flames of a fire!

First and foremost – ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have recently been tested and are working.  If you haven’t tested them lately, do it now!

CANDLES

  • Always treat candles with care and never leave a burning candle unattended in a room
  • Ensure the candles are places on a sturdy, non-combustible surface where they can’t be tipped over and that they are placed in proper holders
  • Never place candles near windows, bedding, shower curtains, books or magazines
  • Avoid placing candles on night stands, high traffic areas or on stairs
  • Do not place candles under shelves or lamps
  • Always properly extinguish candles before retiring for the night
  • Of course the safest option is to use flame-less, battery powered candles. There are some very realistic looking ones out there these days

FIREPLACE

  • Plan for your romantic evening and ensure your chimney has been cleaned and inspected as Creosote can build up and cause a fire
  • Ensure there are no cracks in your chimney where fire can get through
  • Always have a properly fitting screen placed in front of your fireplace
  • If it is a gas fireplace, ensure it has been checked to prevent carbon monoxide leaks
  • Again, make sure the fire is put out before you retire for the evening

COOKING

  • Stay in the kitchen while you are preparing your food on the stove and pay attention to what is happening there. Distraction in the kitchen can end in disaster
  • Most cooking fires are grease fires. If you are faced with a grease fire in the pan, don’t panic! Keep properly fitting lids near the stove so you can easily slide it onto the flaming pan and extinguish the flames and turn off the burner. NEVER add water!
  • Know the ingredients you are cooking with. Not all oils heat up the same and they each have different ignition temperatures.
  • If deep frying is on the menu, do it in a proper deep fryer…don’t improvise.
  • Do not wear loose, flowing fabrics while cooking as these can easily catch on fire
  • Never leave pot holders, oven mitts or tea towels near the burners where they can ignite
  • Keep pan handles turned inward so they can’t be knocked or bumped off the stove
  • Ensure all burners and oven are turned off before you leave the kitchen to enjoy your meal
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Natural-Disasters...How-Prepared-are-You

Natural Disasters… How Prepared are You?

 

CRCS DKI is here to help. This infographic helps you prepare for natural disasters.

Disasters happen whether it’s rain, wind or flood. Be prepared in the right way and make sure you have what will help you in midst of troubling times. Brought to you by CRCS DKI.

A Few Tips to Help Prepare for a Natural Disaster

  • Make a copy of your insurance policy and ensure you understand your coverage
  • Make copies of other “essential documents” – such as driver’s license, passport, social security card, etc. and store in a waterproof container inside a fireproof safe
  • Take a household inventory of everything you own, like appliances and electronics
  • Stock up on food, water, and batteries – enough for each family member for a minimum of 3 days
  • Create a grab and go bag for each family member in case you need to suddenly leave your house
  • Strap your water heater to the wall

If you know of a disaster in your area, please call CRCS DKI to help restore your life and get things back in order.

Call Now – 905-430-3477

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Protecting Your Home from Ice Dams


Spring is not quite here yet, but as temperatures gradually begin to warm, it can seem tempting to start to forget about the lingering winter weather and downplay continual risks to the safety of your property. On such risk that remains throughout the winter and as temperatures begin to warm is ice dams. Property damage from ice dams can be serious, including structural damages to your roof and water damage to the interior of your home.

These are costly damages that can be avoided by taking steps to reduce the risk of ice dams forming. Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take throughout the year to reduce the risk of ice dams. This is important because ice dams are not exclusively a winter problem since water damage ensues once the ice begins to melt. Here are some helpful tips to protect your home from ice dams.

Insulate the Attic

The first and most important step toward preventing ice dams is to insulate the attic well. Ice dams form as heat rises to the attic, melts snow pack high on the roof, enabling runoff to accumulate along the gutters and eaves and refreeze. Making sure that the attic floor is well insulated will help keep excessive heat out. Seal openings and weatherstrip around access doors to minimize the passage of heat.

Ventilate the Attic

In addition to good insulation, be sure that the attic is well ventilated to allow cold outside air to circulate and reduce the temperature of the roof system. The colder the attic, the less freezing and thawing, and consequently, reduced potential for ice dams. Properly ventilating the attic can be done in a couple of ways. Eave vents, soffit vents, or ridge vents are the most optimal designs for attic ventilation and modern roofs have a combination of these vents.

Any household heat that penetrates the attic should be able to rise and escape through a ridge vent while a soffit or eave vent pulls in cold air to replace it. Good ventilation combined with proper insulation should be highly effective in preventing ice dams from forming.

Removing Ice Dams

If ice dams do form along the roof, there are a number of ways you can go about removing them. Chipping or breaking up ice dams should generally be avoided since this can cause damage to your roof. You can always call a roof professional to address the problem if you cannot do it yourself. For less sloped roofs, clearing the snow off the roof can address part of the problem, but you should still ensure that your attic is ventilated and insulated.

Use a shovel or adjustable snow rake to push snow off the roof. For steep roofs, a snow rake is necessary since mounting the roof can be very dangerous in snowy, icy conditions. For serious ice dams, you can also apply snow salt directly to the ice. Of course, the most effective solution is prevention, so take steps to prepare your home to resist ice dams year round.

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Winter Power Outages: How to Prepare


Power outages are a common problem during the winter, and because of the persistent cold, even more dangerous during this season. Prolonged power outages not only have the potential to impact personal comfort and well being, but can take a toll on your home–especially plumbing systems and central heating systems.

Preparing for winter power outages is an important part of continued cold weather seasonal preparedness at home. Staying warm is clearly the ultimate concern during winter outages, but a number of other things are also worthy of consideration in your power outage preparation. The severity and duration of the outage are important determiners of your overall recovery time. Here are some useful tips to prepare for a winter power outage.

Plan Alternative Heating


Since the biggest concern during a winter power outage is staying warm, you should plan for alternative heating. These can include fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and portable generators. Each of these requires a certain degree of maintenance to ensure that they function safely and efficiently when you absolutely need them for heat.

Fireplaces need to be cleaned regularly, with an annual chimney cleaning to prevent excessive creosote buildup. Make sure flammable materials are cleared from nearby the fireplace and adhere to safe fireplace operation.

Generators should be inspected and serviced to ensure they are in proper working condition. Portable generators, in particular, have a supplemental fuel supply and can be less expensive than standby generators. Assess the pros and cons of both and determine which kind will better suit your needs.

Prepare Emergency Resources


In addition to alternative heating resources, you should also prepare essential emergency items to help you sustain yourself during a period without power. Emergency food and water, flashlights, first aid kits, blankets, lanterns, and other essentials that you would keep in any other type of emergency kit. The same type of preparation applies to putting together essentials for winter power outages and other adverse situations.

During the most severe blizzards, along with power outages, a big concern is the closure of businesses and transportation networks. Getting emergency supplies or even getting around can be problematic during a severe storm and outage, so making sure to have everything you need on hand can’t be overemphasized.

At the very least, store first aid supplies, plenty of food, bottled water, alternative heating and lighting sources, and some good snow removal equipment. The objective is to remain self-sustaining until roads are cleared, power is restored, and business and transportation resumes as normal.

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Asbestos: When to Call a Professional

Asbestos is a highly toxic substance found in a variety of building materials–often located in walls and ceilings. Asbestos becomes a potential health problem when it is disturbed and the fibers are released into the air. Generally, if an area contains asbestos and is in good condition, there is little risk for the fibers to be released and removal may not be necessary.

Once a asbestos containing area is disturbed or has potential to be, removal is a good idea. This removal, however, can be a large, physical job and may not be feasible as a DIY job. This job is highly procedural and requires a delicate, comprehensive approach. Before undertaking this removal process, evaluate whether this is a job you have the equipment and experience to handle. In most cases, enlisting professional services is advisable.

Assess the Affected Area

The easiest, safest, and cheapest option is to leave asbestos alone, but this is not always possible or the best solution. When asbestos fibers pose a risk of being released into the air, professional remediation may be necessary. Because of the specialized nature of the removal process and the scope of the job, a professional asbestos removal service may be the safest option.

A professional asbestos service can sample the paint and determine if the walls or ceiling contains asbestos and assess the risks and take the appropriate safety precautions when removing it. If the ceiling and walls are in good condition, it may not be worth the labor and cost to remove it. In these cases, a coat of latex paint can often be applied as a sealant to protect the area. If this is possible, you stand to save a lot of time, money, and stress.

Professional Removal Process

If you opt to hire a professional asbestos removal service, be sure to hire a certified asbestos abatement contractor. These individuals have the professional knowledge, equipment, and training to efficiently and safely remove asbestos from a structure with minimal damage. Removal can be physically taxing and dangerous to your health, so you should almost always contract an asbestos removal professional. Once asbestos fibers are disturbed and released, they can contaminate an entire interior of a structure.

The asbestos must first be wetted to prevent the fibers from releasing. Dry removal poses a serious health risk since fibers will easily release and contaminate large areas. This wetting process is very exact and must be done with care to avoid causing damage to walls, ceilings, and wiring. Professional services will provide a containment area during this process. Proper tools, thorough cleaning, and proper disposal of contaminated materials is a huge benefit to hiring an abatement service.

Hazardous materials must be handled with care and asbestos must be removed and disposed of in a methodical way. What’s more, the physical challenges of wearing a respirator device and protective clothing and eyewear can be hot, uncomfortable, difficult to withstand, and lead to quick exhaustion–especially in confined spaces. The margin for error is slim when working with a volatile substance like asbestos, so leaving the work to a professional removal service is in everyone’s health and safety interests.

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Home Heating Safety Tips: Wood Burning Stoves & Fireplaces

As the temperatures begin to drop and the sun falls lower in the sky, home heating becomes more and more necessary. As fall progresses, taking the time to assess your home heating needs is important for comfort and reliability later in the year when winter weather hits hard. Basic maintenance and inspections of central heating systems is important for reliable operation during the colder months.

In many northern regions, many people have wood burning stoves and fireplaces inside their homes. Maintaining these features and taking safety steps when operating these stoves is also an important part of getting your home ready for winter. Here are a few top home heating safety tips for wood burning stoves and fireplaces.

Clean the Chimney and Stove

fireplace

The more essential part of maintaining the safety and efficiency of wood burning stoves and fireplaces is regular cleaning. Chimneys are the first and most important structure to clean since a chimney full of creosote represents a real fire hazard for the entire house. Having your chimney inspected and professionally cleaned once a year will prevent this buildup and reduce the risk for fire when operating a wood burning stove.

This is also an important maintenance step for fireplaces. Even infrequent burning can lead to a lot of buildup of ash and soot in the chimney and require a thorough cleaning. Taking these basic precautions will help to ensure that your chimney is safe for regular use in the winter months.

Prepare the Surrounding Area

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Getting the interior of your home ready for winter heating needs is just as important as preparing the stove and chimney for use. Relocating flammable items and anything that could become a fire hazard from a stray ember before operating the stove is important. Books, papers, magazines, or any flammable liquids should be relocated a sufficient distance from the stove or fireplace before burning.

You should also have a home fire extinguisher on hand. This is a good practice regardless of whether you operate a wood burning stove since fires could occur for a variety of reasons–from kitchen fires to electrical shorts. Keep a small fire extinguisher nearby when operating a wood burning stove as a last resort.

Completely Extinguish Fires

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Much like completely putting out a campfire before you go to bed, be sure to completely extinguish fires in wood burning stoves and fireplaces before going to bed or leaving the house. This is a basic safety precaution that should be observed as part of your routine when keeping open flames indoors. Not only should you put out all of the flames, you should smoother and extinguish all embers and shut the stove or fireplace doors and vents. This will prevent drafts from reigniting an ember and blowing it into living quarters, potentially igniting nearby items.

Wood burning stoves and fireplaces are great features to have during the cold winter months. They provide an enjoyable warm ambiance and can help reduce reliance on furnace based heat, but be sure to clean and inspect these devices before winter and take basic fire prevention steps when operating.

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Preparing for Flooding: Helpful Tips

With the latest flooding in Burlington, it’s time to think about addressing flood risks and water damage for homes and businesses. Floods are destructive forces that can lead to lasting damages to structures and interior contents. As the last couple months of summer begin to transition into autumn, heavy rains and potential flooding become a possibility across Canada.

Preparing your home or business for high waters is an ongoing endeavor, but also one that takes on urgency when the rains arrive and rivers and streams rise. The most important thing to do is have plans in place to begin protecting your home from flood waters immediately. This requires a good deal of pre-planning, as well as awareness about the weather forecasts. Here are a few tips to help you begin preparing for flooding.

Elevate Appliances

appliances

If a flood alert is issued, elevating appliances and relocating electronics and other valuables is important to protecting these items. Keeping flood waters out of the house is the highest priority, but preparing the interior is equally as important. Elevating appliances is a good first step if flood waters are possible. Cinder blocks are good for getting appliances off the floor. Raise appliances at least 30 cm (12 in) off the floor to reduce the risk of water damage. This is often a last minute response, but you should have the materials on hand and be prepared to do this if water levels rise.

Relocate Furniture & Electronics

bedroom furniture

Relocating other valuables like furniture and electronics is another essential precautionary measure to take if flooding occurs. Heavy rains may cause water levels to quickly rise and you may not have time to get valuables relocated quickly. If a flood alert is issued, be sure to take the initiative and begin getting furniture elevated, covered, or relocated. All electronics should be moved to higher ground. If you have a basement, relocate all valuables to a higher level.

Seal Openings & Install Flood Gates

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Make sure that all cracks and openings around the structure are sealed. This is not a last minute step; you should inspect the foundation and walls and seal any openings where water could infiltrate. Make sure weatherstripping is installed and that doors and windows are well insulated. Keeping water out of the home is always the first priority when waters rise. If you desire, installing portable flood gates around certain parts of your home can be a good way to prevent the infiltration of water. If nothing else, consider sandbagging the perimeter to block out water.

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Teaching Kids Fire Safety

Fire safety is an extremely important part of preparing kids for the world. There are innumerable ways fire can cause property or environmental damage, personal injury, and even death, so taking the initiative to instruct kinds on proper fire etiquette and safety protocols can be life saving knowledge. Children should be instructed from a young age the importance of fire safety and conditioned to see fire as a dangerous element that should only be handled by adults. Educating kids about fire and the reasons for fire safety is more important than simply reducing fire to something fearful. Make sure young kids understand why they need to be careful around fire and let an adult handle it. With a solid understanding of why, kids can make better decisions around fire as they grow older.

Fireworks

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One of the most important elements of fire safety to instill in kids is safety around fireworks. This involves handling and being around fireworks. Fireworks are one variant of fire that kids are often exposed to from a young age and even handle. Accidents related to fireworks like burns and maiming are common among children, so always educate your kids on firework safety and monitor them closely around fireworks. Don’t allow young children to handle or ignite fireworks and always supervise older children. Make sure kids understand how to extinguish fires and recognize the importance of safety precautions around fireworks.

Campfires

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These are another leading cause of burns and forest fires when mismanaged. Kids should learn how to responsibly manage and extinguish a campfire. Starting a fire is an important skill, but understanding the importance of properly extinguishing a campfire in the wilderness is vastly more important. Improperly managed and extinguished fires represent a serious risk for forest fires and the only way to reduce this is through education. Teaching kids from a young age the importance of fire responsibility is crucial to mitigate this risk. From constructing a proper fire pit, understanding how to keep the fire under control, and properly extinguishing the flames, campfire safety should be an integral part of fire safety instruction for kids.

Fire Emergencies

firefighters

Teaching your kids what to do in the event of a fire emergency is one of the most important elements of fire safety you can impart. This knowledge is commonly instilled into kids at school during fire safety lessons and drills, but should be reinforced at home as well. Make sure kids understand the proper response to smoke and fire and the importance of calling for help as soon as possible. Instilling the importance of fire safety in your kids will help ensure that they understand the seriousness of fire and respond accordingly.

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Disaster Preparedness in Schools

Disasters can strike at any time. Because of this, it is important to be prepared no matter what the situation. With children spending a large portion of their day at school, there must be at least some education with disaster preparedness pertaining to school. Make sure your child knows how to react should a disaster happen at their school. While they may not be able to control their surroundings, they will control how they choose to react to them.

Disasters Impact Kids Differently

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The way a disaster will impact a child and the way it will influence an adult are two completely different things. Because of this, it is even more important for children to understand the potential of danger, and know how to react should something unexpected happen. When a child is injured, it is different from an adult. They are more likely to have damaging and lasting effects than an adult would. This includes loss of oxygen, fluid loss, and extreme temperatures.

In most dangerous situations, kids will take the initiative from their parents or other adults in what to do. Because of this, it is crucial that teachers and other school leaders are properly instructed on how to protect kids in these situations. Every school disaster will be different from tornadoes to earthquakes, from gas leaks to school shootings. Make sure that teachers are familiar with the potential disasters in their area and know how to react should one of these happen. When adult leaders are able to take charge of a situation, more lives can be kept safe.

Kids in Preparation

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Just like adults, kids need to be prepared for any disaster situation that could happen. There are two ways in which to do this, the first being to include them in disaster preparations. Put together 72-hour kits and medical supplies to have on hand should something dangerous happen. When the kids are an active participant in these preparations, they will better understand the importance of each, and the potential dangers that might be there. Help use these moments to teach them better how to be prepared in emergency situations.

The second way to help kids prepare is by running drills on a regular basis. These should be unannounced, and should have kids treating them as if they are the real situations. Those running the drills should watch the children and how they react, being prepared to teach them should any mistakes be made.

Kids send a great deal of their time at school, make sure they are prepared should disaster strike while they are here. Through proper planning, your child can be kept safe in any situation. Teach your children the importance of school safety and how to react in potentially dangerous situations.

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5 Things to Prepare for the Next Big Storm

5 Things (2)Preparing for the next big storm is critical, no matter the season. It is common for tornadoes, hurricanes, and thunderstorms to make their way across the country during this time of year. No matter where you live, be prepared for what might be coming your way. Follow these steps before the storm hits so you may be prepared during and after the event.

Food and Water

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Both food and water are critical for survival. Make sure that you have enough for each member of your home for at least 72 hours. Put the foods in your food storage that can last for an extended period of time, especially canned food. Make sure that you have a can opener to access the food in your time of need.

Preparing Kids

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Kids often have a hard time in the face of disaster, make sure you prepare them beforehand for what could happen. For kids of all ages, the prospect of disaster can be frightening. Instead of dwelling on the potential damage, have activities ready to entertain them whether that is coloring materials, or just telling stories. Make sure you have the right supplies to keep your children safe in disaster situations.

Health Essentials

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Those who have existing health conditions should be aware of their medical supplies, and what they will need in the face of a storm. During a major disaster, it may be difficult to have access to the things you need as supplies could be limited. Take matters into your own hands by ensuring you have at least a weeks supply of any medications you need. This also applies to baby essentials such as formula and diapers.

Lighting

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In case of a major storm, it can be very likely that power will be disrupted for an unpredictable amount of time. While during the day this may be ok, at night you don’t want to be stuck in the dark. Buy enough candles, flashlights, and batteries to keep your home lit even if there isn’t any power there. If you do light candles, make sure you have a safe place to do so, preventing fires.

Make a Go Bag

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Disasters hit when we are often least expecting it. Rather than scrambling at the last second, have a go bag ready at a moments notice. This should include water, food, medical supplies, extra clothes, a bit of cash, and anything else you might need for an extended period of time.

There are many preparations that can be made in the face of disaster, these five are some of the most important. Keep your family safe from the storm that may be headed your way by making any necessary preparations beforehand. This will make a huge difference when tragedy strikes, giving you the tools you need to come out on top.

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Preparing for Disasters Using Social Media

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Social media enables minute by minute communication between people across the world. This resourceful tool that makes communication and information sharing so easy and efficient between friends, family, and colleagues is also a valuable tool for disaster preparation. Emergency planning and response is largely a matter of communication. Any method that enables and facilitates communication before, during, and after a disaster can be extremely valuable. Social media services like Facebook and Twitter are equipped to be useful disaster communication and information resources.

Local Awareness

One of the biggest benefits of social media is the awareness it raises and has potential to raise. People organize, plan, and inform through Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and increasingly Pinterest and Instagram–though the latter, more visually. What’s more, many of these services are essential, if not obsessively so, to day to day business. For raising local awareness about a cause, an event, or to simply dialogue with friends and family about a recent event, it is hard to deny the power social media can have to inform our interactions.

Disaster responses necessitate the same level of communication and information distribution, and social media is often the best way to reach more people. Most people with social media accounts such as Facebook regularly check their profiles and updates on the site. For disaster planning and alerts on a local level, this outlet can be extremely effective.

Community Planning

The community element, or social element, is the entire point of social media. Observing, following, and engaging with other people is the objective. For emergency disaster planning, there is no better way to coordinate local responses, distribute information, and raise awareness about a particular threat across a wide group. Severe weather alerts, emergency relief shelter information, volunteer campaigns, and other recovery plans are all part of a social media based disaster preparation endeavor. Since most natural disasters are highly regional events–state or county–planning for disasters locally through community connections on social media sites is a great way to prepare.

The unpredictability and suddenness with which many disasters occur make ongoing planning a necessity. Personal planning efforts can be communicated across social media platforms and broader planning undertaken. Of course, when disasters do occur, you’re not likely to be checking Facebook updates, but there is still value in having a social channel to fall back on as both a preparation outlet and information source after the fact.

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Local Disaster Resource Guide

Local Disaster

Ontario Municipal Affairs

http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page1579.aspx

This site details the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program and features numerous local municipality resources for disaster planning and relief. For Ontario locals this is a good resource to supplement emergency response planning.

Public Safety Canada

http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/mrgnc-mngmnt/rcvr-dsstrs/dsstr-ssstnc-prgrms/index-eng.aspx

Provincial and territorial programs and a complete listing of federal disaster programs are covered here. There are also numerous resources covering the Canadian National Disaster Strategy and specific information on emergency training, exercises, and specific disaster preparations for residences and businesses.

Canadian Red Cross

http://www.redcross.ca/what-we-do/emergencies-and-disasters-in-canada

The Canadian Red Cross features detailed information on disaster planning and local volunteer opportunities and relief. Information for individuals and families as well as businesses is covered here. As a leading international disaster preparation and relief organization, the Red Cross is a great resource for comprehensive planning.

Get Prepared Canada

http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/index-eng.aspx

This site has hazard specific information for all of Canada. There is also good information on personalized emergency plans and tips for building emergency kits. The Canadian disaster database on site also features a complete listing of over 1000 natural and man-made disasters since 1900 for general reference.

Health Canada

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/ed-ud/index-eng.php

Health Canada has a role as a public safety agency responsible for emergency management and coordination of other agencies across Canada. Information on specific disaster responses and emergency planning is featured here.

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How Disasters Are a Community Affair

Natural disasters don’t affect individuals; they affect communities. So much of disaster preparation centers around individual and single family preparedness that it becomes easy to overlook the larger community impact disasters of all kinds have. The importance of initiating community responses to disasters is extremely important since it is the neighborhood community that is going to be the first responder after a disaster. It will be your neighbor helping you clear water after a flood or offer a first aid kit or some food. Outside help from private organizations and the federal government always comes later.

Benefiting from Community Awareness

Every community can benefit from disaster awareness and greater preparation. From having an organized response plan to having a pool of essential resources for distribution to help the neighborhood, a little bit of group planning can go a long way in the aftermath of a disaster. When you consider the devastating power of a natural disaster, you realize that those who live around you can often be the most important resource for recovery. When communities come together to organize a response, the recovery process can be much smoother. When it comes to the reconstruction process, individuals lending time and labor can be invaluable.

A Greater Preparation

Thinking about the greater needs of your community is important when preparing for a disaster. This isn’t to say that you need to do the preparing for those around you–just that people naturally rely on one another in times of hardship or crisis–and working with neighbors to recover from a disaster can be a good approach. Even a gesture as seemingly small as offering someone an extra gallon of water, a first aid kit, or reconstruction assistance can make a difference in the larger community attitude toward a collective recovery.

A shared experience of hardship is known to bring strangers together to formulate a solution and begin recovery. This is not universally true and there are clearly exceptions in people’s generosity towards strangers after a disaster, but neighborhoods that work together and help one another tend to be better off after a disaster. Just as communities with awareness about what goes on in the neighborhood and a concern for the welfare of their neighbors are often safer and happier, the same applies to communities affected by natural disasters. While planning for severe spring weather or making general disaster preparations, include your neighbors in the process and get others involved for comprehensive community awareness and preparation.

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DIY Flood Control Tips

Flooding can occur anywhere–often with little or no warning–and the effects can range from inconvenient to devastating. Understanding what you can do yourself to prevent water damage and controlling a flood at home is very important in preparation for both severe weather and malfunctions or accidents around the home.

The best flood preparation involves taking measures to prevent damages well before floods present a risk. In general, this comes down to adhering to some best practices around the house to prepare to mitigate water damage. Here are a few good tips for preparing your home for flood control.

Repair Cracks and Leaks-

These are major vulnerabilities in the home that will exacerbate with water. Cracks in the roof and foundation are the most concerning since these are the main entry points for water. Inspect these areas closely while its dry and fix any deficiencies as soon as possible. Use caulk, mortar, or hydraulic cement to repair foundation cracks. If you notice a persistent leak, you will need to find the source, repair the leak, and then seal the area well to prevent further damage.

Inspect and Fix the Roof-

The roof is everything. If there is structural damage or damage to shingles, repair as soon as possible. Sustained water damage can quickly weaken a roof and lead to more severe problems later. Look for noticeably worn or damaged shingles and have them replaced. Also, consider adding an underlayer of rubber below the shingles as a waterproof barrier to further protect the roof.

Clean Drains and Gutters-

Water can easily back up in drains, gutters, and downspouts due to leaves and other debris. Make sure the gutters and downspouts running off your roof are clear of debris. Also check all drains for easily flow and consider adding sewer line check valves to prevent sewer backup in the event of a flood. These function to allow waste to flow only one way and can be good to have to keep waste water from entering your home.

Relocate Valuables and Elevate Appliances-

During a flood or in the event of any other type of water damage, you will want to protect valuables and prevent damage to appliances. This step is especially important in basements where water arrives first. Relocate electronics and furniture and shut off appliances that may be affected. If possible, elevate appliances on blocks above the water level. In the instance of a severe flood, this may not be possible, but in general raising them 12 inches or so should keep them out of the water. Shut off power at the main breaker.

While water damage is difficult to prevent entirely, taking measures to keep your home in good condition, ensuring proper drainage around the house, and having a procedure for protecting items from damage can help reduce the damaging potential of water.

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Keeping Your Home Protected from Winter Storms

As severe winter storms sweep across the U.S and Canada, revisiting how to keep your home protected from the effects of the ice and snow is important. Cold weather is extremely hard on the exterior of homes and puts strain on internal systems in terms of energy output. Equipping and maintaining your home to deal with harsh weather is important through every season. Much like any form of preparation, keeping your home in good condition to withstand severe weather is an ongoing process. If something is in severe need of repair or upgrade, obviously you should do it. Otherwise, there are a few important areas to focus on when preparing your home for increased resilience to harsh weather.

Protect Your Roof

The roof is everything in a home. If your roof is damaged, repair can be enormously expensive and compromise a lot of other parts of your home. During the warmer months, making any repairs will be much easier and is always a good idea for preparation during the cold and/or stormy months ahead. Snow accumulation on a roof is a big concern most places, and evaluating your roof’s condition and resistance to the weight of snow is important. Ice and snow pack can add a lot of weight to a roof and stress it beyond capacity. Beyond inspecting the roof for structural weakness and shingle damage, you should regularly remove snow pack with a roof rake during the winter season and actively prevent ice dams by clearing gutters and making sure attics are insulated and ventilated. Heat buildup in the attic can melt snow and ice and cause runoff, which can freeze in debris clogged gutters.

Insulate Pipes and Weatherstrip

Ensuring heat retention and cold prevention is the number one aim for most people at home during the winter. Keeping utility costs down is also a big part of this. By weatherstripping doors and sealing cracks and leaks around windows, you can retain more heat indoors, prevent cold drafts, and ultimately save on heating costs. If your home has single pane windows, upgrading to quality double paned glass is a good way to further increase energy efficiency. Burst pipes are also a serious concern during polar temperatures. Insulating pipes along exterior walls with foam tubing can help keep pipes from freezing and bursting. While there is often no guarantee that pipes won’t freeze during severe cold, taking steps to protect them to ensure they don’t burst is the highest priority. Its a good idea to regularly run water through pipes and keep your home a consistent, warm temperature to keep internal pipes from freezing.

Address Damages Quickly

Sometimes damages are unavoidable and severe storms take their toll on structures. When this happens the best thing you can do is address damages as quickly as possible. If an appliance fails, it may or may not be an emergency, but when a pipe bursts or something like a water heater or furnace goes out, you will need to address the problem asap. Being equipped with tools and basic building materials to fix minor damages is always good, but knowing when to call a professional is important as well. If you’re dealing with water damage from a burst pipe, it is best to get a cleanup expert on the phone as soon as possible before the damage sets in and becomes worse. In most ways, protecting your home from winter storms always comes back to preparation.

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Reducing Winter Flood Risks and Ice Melts

The cold winter weather that has descended across Canada and the northeast and mid-western U.S has broken many yearly records for intensity. The polar vortex of sub zero arctic air left much of Canada and the northeast U.S frozen. The temperatures, however, are beginning to rise steadily and with that rise comes ice melt and the risk of flooding. Over the past month or so, Canada and the U.S have experienced sustained negative double digit temperatures causing massive freezes and snow accumulation. While urban ice melt is not a great flood risk in itself, frozen rivers and waterways pose a serious flash flood risk to communities. While substantial drops in temperature are unlikely, ice will begin to melt rapidly from waterways and, once this happens, flooding can quickly occur.

During the cold of the winter, flooding is often overlooked as a common disaster, but drastic temperature changes after a prolonged cold spell can create flood conditions. Depending on your specific location, floods may or may not be a serious risk. Low lying floodplains and communities near major waterways are always at risk, however, even during the winter. As temperatures fluctuate you should take measures to prepare for potential flooding and always know what to do in the event of a flash flood.

The best ways to mitigate the risks of flood damage involve preparing your home and planning a response to rising waters. This often includes clearing drains, downspouts, and gutters of leaves or debris so that water can run freely through them. Make sure drains are clear and running smoothly. You should also be prepared to quickly address water accumulation by knowing when to shut off power at the main breaker, relocate electronics and furniture off the floor–in particular out of basements, and elevating appliances on blocks off the floor to avoid water damage.

Basically, you want to remove and relocate anything that will be damaged by water accumulation–furniture, rugs, appliances, and electronics. Additionally, you want to prepare for an possible evacuation from your home by gathering important documents, papers, and other valuables and storing them in a safe, portable place. If the flooding became bad enough and you were forced from home, you want to be able to gather important items and leave quickly. Its also a good idea to keep a portable emergency preparedness kit with survival essentials in the event of displacement.

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Do You Have a Disaster Savings Account?

With the recent ice storm, have ever been subjected to a similar natural disaster or know someone who has? You may know the huge personal and financial costs that are involved in the aftermath. The benefits of having an emergency preparedness kit are widely touted as responsible disaster planning, but having a disaster savings account is even better. These accounts are meant to mitigate the aftermath of a natural disaster by ensuring that you have some financial reserve to cope with the damage after a disaster. While it may be unreasonable to put away a great deal of money into such an account, even having a small amount could help lessen the recovery costs–particularly if your insurance covers much of the damage.

Taking every precaution to prepare yourself and your home for a natural disaster is very important. Over the past few months, tornadoes, tropical storms, and severe winter weather have affected a large part of the world. Using events like these to increase your individual awareness and preparedness will serve you if and when a disaster does occur. Things like making your home more secure, ensuring your insurance coverage is adequate, and planning an emergency response are all excellent methods of preparation. Beyond these, however, maintaining a financial disaster solution is the most important kind of protection to have.

The most devastating part of a disaster is often the loss of or severe damage to a home. While insurance and government relief can help the recovery process, a personal disaster savings account can ultimately be the difference in the degree of recovery. Like any emergency fund, the more you have stowed away, the easier it can be to get your life back in order. A good idea may be to set up a separate account with your bank as a disaster fund. This account should not be touched outside of emergencies. No matter what kind of disasters are common in your region, a disaster savings account is a beneficial thing to have.

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Tips for Preventing Ice Dams

As winter descends on North America, freezing temperatures and severe weather become more common and problematic. One major concern as a result of heavy precipitation and freezing temperatures is the formation of ice dams. These can be costly problems during the winter since ice dams can lead to water damage in the roof and attic. If these are not address, they can cause more long term property damage that could require thousands of dollars in repairs, especially if the roof is seriously affected. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place.

 

Clean Drains and Gutters

One of the easiest ways to prevent ice from forming along the roof is to keep your gutters clear of debris. This also includes downspouts and drains. Keeping these free of vegetation and debris will ensure that water flows smoothly through and doesn’t accumulate and freeze.

 

Insulate Vents and other Openings

In the attic you want to insulate all openings and vents to prevent airflow in and out. Sealing and insulating them is the best way to prevent snow melt running of the roof and into the gutters and freezing. You also want to seal and weatherstrip all access doors in the attic.

 

Relocate Heat Sources and Insulate Light Fixtures

Any heat source that is installed in the open attic should be removed or relocated. Too much heat building in the attic will melt snow on the roof and the water flowing to the gutters will freeze if temperatures permit. Any light fixtures in the ceiling should be insulated as well, as this heat can infiltrate the attic.

 

Install Heating Cables to the Roof or Drainage

If ice dams are a regular concern to your home, you may consider connecting heating cables to the drainage to prevent ice buildup. You can also install these cables on the roof and connect them to the drainage system so the melting ice flows naturally through the drains without freezing.

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Minimize Flood Losses with the Right Materials

Having the right building materials in place can help reduce water damage from floods. One risk to homes and business in the aftermath of a flood is the lack of electricity to heat the space and help dry out building materials inside. The prolonged exposure to water is one way in which floods wreak havoc on buildings, but once the water subsides, the delay in the drying process contributes to more damage.

If you live in a high risk flood area, its worth considering these things in your overall preparation. After a flood, getting items out of the water and dried is as important as removing the water itself. Whether by repairing damages or remodeling a home or business to be more sustainable during an event like a flood, there are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to indoor materials.

 

  • The first thing to prepare is the walls. Using a wood based product for walls will hold up and recover from a flood better than paper based products. This may mean choosing wainscoting over drywall. When water affects the walls, wood based products can dry and recover more easily than paper ones. There is always the likelihood that they will still need to be replaced since wood warps easily from prolonged water exposure, but they are still superior to paper.

 

  • Next, reconsider carpeting in your home. Carpet acts like a sponge, retaining moisture, and being generally very difficult to completely dry. After a flood or extensive water damage, you will likely have to tear out the carpet anyway, so consider removing it in favor of hardwood flooring. Many homes have wood flooring beneath carpeting anyway. For floor covering, consider easily removable area rugs that can be rolled up and stored.

 

  • For storage, have plastic containers on hand to put valuables. While you don’t necessarily have to keep everything in plastic bins all of the time, having them on hand to use during and after a flood can help preserve valuables in a manner that is easy to store and transport. Also, keep electronic devices on shelves and off the floor. This is important if heavy rains and flooding are expected and you have time to prepare in advance. This will preserve these valuables and reduce fire risks.

 

  • Finally, if possible, install power outlets higher on walls so as to avoid contact with water in the event of a flood. This is important and can be a good idea in basements where flooding is most likely to be the worst. If this is not possible or too much of an expense, be sure to shut off the power in anticipation of a flood or immediately following rising water levels. Of course, the best preparation is closely monitoring the weather and outside conditions and having good flood insurance for your home or business.
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Financially Surviving a Disaster: Are You Prepared?

The harsh reality about disasters is that they ruin people financially. A severe storm can destroy homes and businesses and cause damages that far exceed the financial solvency of an individual or family. Because of this sad truth, being financially prepared for a disaster is as important as being physically and emotionally prepared. Planning emergency responses, preparing homes and businesses, and putting together preparedness kits is only part of complete disaster prep. Having a financial recovery plan in place is one of the most critical aspects of setting yourself up for post disaster success. Homes and businesses should both have the proper insurance coverage for a variety of disasters, especially regionally specific disasters that affect a particular area, such as hurricanes or earthquakes.

Businesses, in particular, should have a strong continuity plan in place to begin immediate recovery after a disaster. This includes checklists of things to do in anticipation of a disaster, responses during a disaster, and things to do in the aftermath. Resources for recovery assistance, insurance protocols, and information for employees, suppliers, and vendors are all part of this continuity planning. The most important part of this preparation is ensuring you get the business back to functioning, protect your data, and fulfill financial obligations after a disaster. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has an online program for business and can be found of their website.

For residential homeowners, it is important to look carefully at your insurance coverage. For example, if you lack flood insurance, as most conventional home owner’s insurance plans do not automatically cover flooding, verifying and correcting this before a flood occurs is in your best interest. Just like any other kind of preparation, preparing financially well before a disaster strikes will ease your recovery. Disasters, no matter how small, are devastating in every sense. No matter how well you prepare, you are never fully prepared for the actual event. The best thing you can do is plan thoroughly before a disaster and work to ensure that your finances and insurance coverage are as prepared as your emergency kit.

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Top 3 Sources of Kitchen Fires

Top 3 Sources of Kitchen Fires

When it comes to fires, one will typically assume that a fire was started by arson or that a food item caught fire in the stove.  While that may be true much of the time, there are other reasons a fire can start, especially in the kitchen.

  • Improper Cleaning and Maintenance.  Improper cleaning of a kitchen stove, oven, grease trap, or exhaust vent can be a huge source of fire. When the gases are released from the appliance or food being cooked is not properly cleaned from the device, it can often accumulate and become a huge hazard, thus sparking a fire.
  • Electrical Malfunctions. Worn electrical cords, heating cords or wiring can also be a major cause of fire. Often times you do not know that something is wrong, and you go to turn on the stove and because the wiring was messed up, flames start spewing out of your kitchen.
  • Unattended Appliances. Often times when cooking, we will walk upstairs to check on the kids or we will become sidetracked by the phone.  This is one of the worst things you could do, because while that stove or oven is unattended something could easily go wrong: a paper towel that was a little too close could catch on fire and the next thing you know, your kitchen or whole home could be in flames.

In order to ensure your own safety, your families safety, and to protect your valuables, pay close attention when you are in the kitchen.  Never leave items near an open flame, never leave a flame unattended, clean your appliance thoroughly after each use, perform routine maintenance and checkups to be sure your appliances are running in top shape, and most importantly… know how to put out a kitchen fire!

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