Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

Flash Flood Safety

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As parts of Texas experience unprecedented flooding the last two days, here are flood safety tips by DisasterSafety.org:

Flash Flood Safety

  • Be aware that flash flooding is very dangerous and can move quickly. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly. In fact, two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions.

Flash Flood Watches and Warnings

Flash Flood Watch

If flash flooding is possible, be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Flash Flood Warning

If a flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground on foot immediately.

Please be sure to take all instructions by your local authorities seriously, and if they have ask you to evacuate, please do so. It could save your life and the life of your loved ones.

Photo Credit: Daniel Kramer, featured on HoustonPress.com

Backyard Safety Tips

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As families move outdoors to enjoy nice weather in Spring and Summer, special precautions should be taken to ensure outdoor areas are safe from potential hazards. Swimming pools, barbecue grills, gardening tools and fertilizers, and lawn toys all pose risks to children and adults alike. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety gives the following backyard safety tips:

  • Practice constant, adult supervision around any body of water, including pools and spas. Nationally, drowning is a leading cause of death to children under five.
  • If you’re considering a swimming pool purchase, contact your local Building Department first to determine exactly what permits are needed and what requirements you must follow.
  • In-ground and above-ground pools, including inflatable pools holding more than 24 inches of water, must be surrounded by a fence or other barrier at least four feet high. Any gates in the fence must be self-closing and self-latching.
  • Reserve a spot on a wall or fence near the pool for lifesaving devices, including a portable or mobile telephone.
  • Steps and ladders for above-ground pools should be secured or removed when the pool is not in use.
  • Use a cover for the pool when it is not in use.
  • Make sure drain covers are properly fitted and paired or have vacuum suction releases to prevent being trapped under water.
  • Consider installing a pool alarm that can alert if someone enters the pool.
  • Spa water temperatures should be set to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to avoid elevated body temperature, which could lead to drowsiness, unconsciousness, heat stroke, or death.
  • Designate the grilling area as a “No Play Zone” and keep kids and pets well away until grill equipment is completely cool.
  • Check propane cylinder hoses for leaks before use.
  • Do not move hot grills.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going.
  • Don’t leave toys, tools and equipment in the yard.
  • Keep steps, sidewalks and patios in good repair.
  • Check all swings, slides, playhouses and other structures for sharp objects, rusty metal pieces, breaks or weakened support pieces.
  • Learn CPR

Photo credit: house-designideas.com

The Difference Between A Tornado Watch Vs. Warning

As 26 residents were injured last night in Van, Texas due to a tornado, it is important to review the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

tornado watch is issued when the weather conditions are favorable and there is a possibility of a tornado developing in your area in the next several hours. During a tornado watch, you need to be alert and prepared to go to safe shelter in case a tornado warning is issued. Stay close to a radio or TV and pay close attention to the weather reports.

During a tornado watch you should also:

  • Review your emergency preparedness plan
  • Make sure you have your disaster kit ready

Possible signs of a tornado to look for during a watch are:

  • Dark greenish or orange-gray skies
  • Large hail
  • Large, dark, low-lying, rotating or funnel-shaped clouds
  • A loud roar that is similar to a freight train

tornado warning means that a tornado has actually been spotted in your area and is showing up on Doppler radar. This means you must take shelter immediately in a safe and sturdy structure. If there is a tornado warning you should:

  • Get inside a secure building (not a mobile home) as soon as you can
  • Get to the lowest floor, preferably a basement
  • Get as close to the center of the room (and as far away from windows) as you can
  • Try to get under a heavy table if possible
  • Crouch low, facing down, and cover your head

And, as I have mentioned before, one of the most valuable tools is a weather radio. You need to know what is going on around you as weather changes rapidly and with little warning.

So as we all enjoy the Spring weather, know that tornado season is officially here and we all need to be aware and prepared.

Spring Home Maintenance And Safety

It is that time of year again when the weather is getting warmer and flowers are starting to bud. As you enjoy being outside, remember there are a lot of things that need to be done to your home for both maintenance and safety. Freshhome.com has some great hints on preparing your home, both inside and out, for Spring cleaning like:

  • Removing twigs from your gutters
  • Cleaning fan blades and air filters to improve the air quality in your home
  • And, how Spring cleaning may pay dividends in the long run

My suggestion for Spring cleaning is start with your windows. The sooner you can clean the screens, wipe the glass and let in the sunshine, the sooner you can take advantage of all the sites, smells and sounds of your neighborhood shaking off the cloak of winter because Spring cleaning can be psychological as much as physical.

How to Prevent Hail Damage

This past week, hail storms struck areas of Texas and as we know, hail can cause severe property damage.

DisasterSafety.org gives some of the following information on preventing hail damage:

WHEN YOU REPLACE YOUR ROOF COVERING

If you are replacing your old, worn out roof covering with new asphalt shingles and you are concerned about hail damage, make sure they have a Class 4 rating under Underwriters Laboratories’ (UL) 2218 standard. A Class 4 rating tells you a sample of the product did not crack when hit twice in the same area by a two-inch steel ball. The UL 2218 standard is a useful method for testing impact resistance, but it isn’t perfect and works better for some roof coverings than for others. The UL standard measures whether a product cracks under impact. Some roof coverings, particularly some made of metal, may resist cracking, but can be dented and dimple. Nevertheless, post-storm investigations have shown that impact- rated products do in fact perform better in the real world than nonimpact-rated products. For rigid roof coverings, such as tile, an ice-ball impact test (FM 4473) has been developed. Some products have been test using that standard. While we [DisasterSafety.org] are not aware of any rigid products that have achieved a Class 4 rating with FM 4473, look for products with the highest possible rating using this standard.

TIPS FOR WHEN A HAILSTORM STRIKES

  • If you are indoors when a storm with large hailstones strikes, stay there. Because large pieces of hail can shatter windows, close your drapes, blinds or window shades to prevent the wind from blowing broken glass inside.
  • Stay away from skylights and doors.
  • If you are outside, move immediately to a place of shelter.

So keep in mind that Spring and Summer storms and tornadoes can bring hail and being prepared can prevent property damage as well as bodily harm.

Are You Prepared For A Tornado?

illinois tornado

A tornado damaged numerous homes last night in northern Illinois. This is a solemn reminder that, if you live in an area where a tornado may occur, it is crucial that you and your family are prepared.

The first step is paying attention to the weather conditions and reports. A “tornado watch” means that tornadoes are possible and a “tornado warning” means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Both should be taken very seriously. You may monitor your weather conditions via your local radio station, television newscast or a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.

According to The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), if there is a tornado warning you should go to shelter immediately, either in a designated shelter or the lowest building level, like a basement.  If you have no basement then go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level  and stay away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

Danger signs of an approaching tornado are a dark (often greenish) sky, large hail, a large dark low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating) or a loud roar similar to that of a freight train. But, also keep in mind that tornadoes may occur quickly and without any warning and are sometimes proceeded by calm weather or a break in the clouds. This is why it is important to closely monitor local weather reports.

I have also written another post with more tornado tips along with a post regarding an option for repairing your car from hail damage (hail is often paired with tornado weather).

Enjoy the spring, but take tornado watches and warnings seriously and stay safe!

Photo Credit: @TomPurdyWI

Thunderstorm and Lightning Safety Tips

Severe thunderstorms are flaring up across parts of the Midwest, Great Plains and South. With severe thunderstorms comes thunder and lightning. It is important to keep in mind the dangers of lightning and how to keep yourself and your property safe during such weather.

The following are tips from the National Weather Service and National Lightning Safety Institute regarding safety during a thunder and lightning storm:

  • Unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use or when you will be away from home for a period of time such as a vacation. Having the power switched off does not protect a device if it is still plugged in to the electrical outlet; it must be unplugged to remove it from the electrical circuit. If you know a storm is approaching, take a few minutes to unplug items in the house that are susceptible to a power surge.
  • Move cars into the garage or away from treesIf a garage is available, park the car inside to avoid damage from hail, downed tree limbs or wind-blown debris. If no garage is available, try to relocate the car to a location that’s out in the open to prevent damage from downed trees or tree limbs.
  • Stay away from water and pipes. If a lightning bolt strikes nearby, the electricity can travel through water pipes, so prevent electrocution during a thunderstorm by avoiding the sink, toilet, shower and bath.
  • Don’t use your telephone landlineLightning strikes can send a surge of electricity traveling through the phone lines, resulting in electrocution. Avoid using the telephone during a thunderstorm.
  • Stay away from the windows. There have been many cases involving people who have been struck by lightning while standing near a window. In addition, a downed tree limb or debris could come crashing through a window, resulting in serious injury or even death to anyone situated nearby.
  • Remain in an interior room during a severe thunderstorm.Some severe thunderstorm systems have been known to produce tornadoes, and super cell thunderstorms can produce intense winds that cause damage that’s comparable that which would result from a tornado. During a severe thunderstorm, bring children and pets into an interior room or hallway, and stay far away from windows. The goal is to place as many walls as possible between the residents and the outdoors.

In addition to the tips above, make sure your cell phone is charged, pack a storm preparedness kit (a storm kit should include non-perishable food items, pet food, medication, can openers, batteries, flashlights, a first aid kit and other storm survival essentials). Also, have a battery powered radio or NOAA weather radio in order to get up-to-date information on weather reports.

 

FAQ

Sudden accidental loss vs. continuous leaks, coverage for broken water pipes

Hi Paul, I have home owners insurance. Will it cover broken water pipes under my house?

Thanks for the question. Ensuing damage from broken water pipes may be covered depending on which policy you have. The damage to the pipes is usually excluded. Again, depending on the policy, the damage the water causes may be covered as long as the loss is sudden and accidental, and, if during the winter, you have done all you can to maintain heat in the home. Continuous leaks are typically excluded under most policies. If you have experienced a loss, please turn this in to your carrier immediately.

Pipe losses, left alone, can cause significant damage.

FAQ

Uninsured antique car crushed by a tree, is this covered under homeowners?

Hi Paul, I had an uninsured 1965 mustang parked in front of an outbuilding at my mothers house and a huge tree fell damaging the building and crushing the car. Will her homeowner policy cover the car?

Great question. Under most policy forms this loss is only covered if your mother was negligent. Normally tree losses are not caused by the negligence of the home owner. But if you are unsure, ask your mother to turn the claim in to her carrier for consideration. Thanks for asking.

Winter Storm Power Outage Checklist

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As freezing weather continues to impact residents throughout the eastern U.S., the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) urges property owners to prepare for possible power outages with the following safety checklists.

ALTERNATIVE HEAT CHECKLIST

WOOD STOVE

  • Maintain at least a 36-inch clearance between the stove and combustible materials, such as furniture and clothing.

  • Prior to using the stove, place a layer of sand or firebrick in the bottom of the firebox.

SPACE HEATER

  • Maintain a 36-inch clearance between the heater and combustible materials, such as bedding, furniture, wall coverings or other flammable items.

  • Do not leave a heater unattended.

  • Electric heaters should be inspected prior to use. Check the cord for fraying, cracking and look for broken wires or signs of overheating in the device itself.

  • Use only heavy-duty extension cords marked with a No. 14 gauge or larger wire.

  • If the heater plug has a grounding prong, use only a grounding (three wire) extension cord.

  • Never run the heater cord (or any cord) under rugs or carpeting.

  • Liquid Fuel-Powered Devices (kerosene or oil heat)

  • Never use gasoline or any other substitute fuel.

  • Allow the heater to cool down prior to refueling.

WOOD FIREPLACE

  • Regular cleaning will keep the fireplace free of obstructions and creosote. If you haven’t had maintenance performed recently, use caution when operating the fireplace and never leave it unattended.

  • Make sure the damper is open.

  • Before use, inspect the chimney and fireplace area for debris and animals that could have taken up residence.

  • Maintain proper clearance around the fireplace and keep it clear of combustible materials such as books, newspapers and furniture.

  • Always close the screen when in use.

  • Keep glass doors open during the fire.

  • Use a fireplace grate.

  • Never burn garbage, rolled newspapers, charcoal or plastic in the fireplace.

  • Avoid using gasoline or any liquid accelerant.

  • Clean out ashes from previous fires and store them in a noncombustible container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep the container outside and away from the house.

  • Make sure the fire is completely out before closing the damper.

GAS FIREPLACE

  • Adjust the millivolt output.

  • Keep glowing embers and logs clean.

  • Inspect and clean air circulation passages and fan.

  • Clean glass as needed. Avoid obstructing vents.

PORTABLE GENERATOR RESOURCES

FACTS ABOUT PORTABLE GENERATORS

  • Portable generators are less expensive to purchase and install than permanent (standby) generators. Without a supplemental fuel supply, they have a relatively short run time and may need to be refueled several times a day during a prolonged power outage.

  • Most portable generators are designed to work with a few appliances or pieces of electrical equipment that may be plugged directly into the generator without the use of a generator transfer switch.

  • This type of generator could be especially useful, but it isn’t recommended if you are operating sensitive equipment or have numerous large appliances or business machines.

  • When using a portable generator, you also will have to purchase an electric power cord to feed the electrical equipment.

  • This should be a heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cord sized for the total electrical load (voltage and amps) you may need.

  • Choose a cord that exceeds the total expected load in order to prevent excessive heat buildup and degradation of the power cord.

  • Ensure that the cord has three prongs and has no splits, cuts or holes in the external insulation covering.

  • An overloaded power cord can potentially start a fire.

SAFETY CHECKLIST

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from engine exhaust is a common and serious danger that can result in death if generators are used improperly, in particular, if the fuel is not burned completely.

  • Because CO is invisible and odorless, business and/or building owners should install a CO detector to warn of rising CO levels, and test it monthly.

  • Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow CO to come indoors.

  • Maintain plenty of air flow space around the generator.

  • When using an emergency electric power generator, get fresh air immediately if you begin to feel flu like symptoms, sick, dizzy or light headed.

  • Carefully follow all instructions on properly “grounding” the generator.

  • Keep the generator dry. If needed, operate portable generators under an open canopy type structure. Short circuits may occur in wet conditions resulting in the generator catching fire.

FUEL

  • Store fuel in an approved storage container or holding tank designed for such use, and only use fuel that is recommended in the owner’s manual. Never store fuel indoors.

  • Do not keep fuel near the electric generator while the electric generator is in use, as it could start a fire.

  • Never refuel while the generator is running, and always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher located nearby.

  • Keep cords out of the way to avoid injury, but in plain view to allow for visual inspections of any damage, such as fraying or cuts, that could result in a fire.

AVOID BACK FEEDING 

  • Do not “back feed” power into your electrical system by plugging the generator into a wall outlet. Back feeding will put you and potentially others, including utility line workers, at serious risk because the utility transformer can increase the low voltage from the generator to thousands of volts. Some states have laws that make the generator owner responsible for taking steps to make sure that the generator’s electricity cannot feed back into the power lines, and for notifying the local utility of the location of any commercial, industrial, or residential generator.

  • The exterior portions of a generator, even those operated for only a short period of time, can become hot. Avoid touching the generator without protective gear and keep debris clear to avoid a fire.

So with all the severe weather this winter, it is most important that you follow the above safety tips to prevent damage to your home or risk the safety of you and your loved ones.