Wednesday, December 15, 2010


With winter starting next week, the snow has been hitting the northern part of New York.  Heavy snow fall has closed airports, roads, and has already caused millions in damage.  The southern part of the state has been getting minimal snow, but icy roads have been causing accidents and traffic tie-ups. 

The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) today issued a Safety Alert advising homeowners and businesses throughout New York State that heavy snowfall and drifting snow may create a new hazard: carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, dangerous gas, commonly known as CO.

State Fire Administrator Floyd A. Madison said that with the recent onslaught of lake-effect snows in western, central and northern portions of New York State, local fire agencies have reported an increase in calls about carbon monoxide detectors going off in homes. Madison said that the reason for these calls is that high snow drifts may be blocking furnace vents and air intakes in some homes, particularly those that have newer high-efficiency furnaces.

“New, high efficiency furnaces vent out the side of a house rather than up through the roof,” Madison said. “This type of venting and air intake must be kept free and clear of snow. If it plugs up, the carbon monoxide would go back into the home. This is why the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control is issuing this warning.”

The State Fire Administrator said that some areas of New York State have received more than three feet of snow in the last week. Many newer high efficiency furnaces have an automatic device that shuts off the furnace when the vents are blocked, but not all of them. First responders say it is important to keep a three-foot area clear around the vent and intake tubes.

The New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control advises all New Yorkers affected by the recent heavy snows to inspect the area around their furnace and hot water heater vents to ensure that snow and ice are not blocking the efficient and safe operation of these fuel burning devices.  Homeowners should keep a three- foot area around the vents clear of snow, shrubs, or other potential obstructions.

If your CO alarm sounds, evacuate all family members to a safe location and call your local fire department, Madison said.

Additional information on carbon monoxide may be found at:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Home Protection Tips

All of that mild weather kind of spoiled us, but winter is hear.  Well technically it isn't yet, but it sure does feel like winter out there.  There are several things that you can do to minimize some of winter's biggest threats to your home. 

Snow Fall
Heavy snow accumulation can pose a threat to your home or business -- both as it builds up and as it melts. The three most important things to do are:
  1. Watch for snow accumulation on the leeward (downwind) side of a higher-level roof, where blowing snow will collect. For safe removal that won't endanger you or damage your roof, consult a roofing contractor for a referral.  
  2. Remove snow from basement stairwells, window wells and all walls. Melting snow can lead to water damage and moisture intrusion.
  3. Keep your attic well ventilated to maintain a temperature close to that of the outdoors to minimize the risk of ice dams forming. A warm attic melts snow on the roof, causing water to run down and refreeze at the roof's edge, where it's much cooler. If ice builds up and blocks water from draining, water is forced under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.

Melting Snow and Ice
Water intrusion and flood damage from melting snow and ice can threaten homes and businesses, but you can take these steps to help minimize the potential damage.

Immediately after the threat of physical danger has passed:
  1. Make sure the building is structurally safe to enter or reoccupy.
  2. Turn off electrical power. Do not use electricity until it is safe to do so.
  3. Ensure that natural gas sources are safely secured.
  4. Secure the exterior to prevent further water intrusion. This can include boarding up broken windows, making temporary roof repairs, sealing cracks or tacking down plastic sheeting against open gaps in walls or roofs.
When it's safe to begin cleanup:
  1. Disconnect all electronics/electrical equipment and move it to a safe, dry location.
  2. Remove as much standing water as possible from inside the building.
  3. Begin to remove water-damaged materials immediately.
  4. Ventilate the home as best you can with fans and/or dehumidifiers.
  5. Contact a water extraction company, if necessary, for assistance.

By taking immediate action, you will reduce the amount of damage and increase the chance of salvaging usable materials. You'll also reduce the amount of rust, rot, mold and mildew that may develop, and lower the likelihood that the water will lead to structural problems.


Ice Dams
Ice dams are an accumulation of ice at the lower edge of a sloped roof. When interior heat melts the snow, water can run down and refreeze at the roof's edge, where it's much cooler. If the ice builds up and blocks water from draining off the roof, water is forced under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.

To help reduce the risk of ice dams:

  1. Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris.
  2. Keep the attic well ventilated so snow doesn't melt and refreeze on the roof's edge.
  3. Make sure the attic floor is well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.  
Frozen/Bursting Pipes
Bursting pipes occur when frozen water causes a pressure buildup between the ice blockage and the closed faucet. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are particularly vulnerable to extreme cold. To keep water in your pipes from freezing:

  1.  Fit exposed pipes with insulation sleeves or wrapping to slow heat transfer.
  2. Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes with caulking.
  3. Keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes.
  4. Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space.
If you suffer damage from some of these winter hazards, you might be covered under your home, condo, or renters insurance.  To find out, you should contact your current company, or call us at 888-900-2173, and we can review your coverage for you.  Taking the steps to prevent these hazards will not only save you money from having to pay for your deductible or parts of the claims that aren't covered.  They will also save you money on your premiums for years to come. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Lighting Safety

The holidays are here, and you might have already put up your lights.  I started on Thanksgiving, and finished decorating the outside of the house this past weekend.  Here are some saftey tips that are good to follow:

• Check lighting strands for broken bulbs, frayed wires, loose connection, or any other signs of wear or damage. Throw away any strands that give you cause for concern.

• Some safety experts recommend replacing light strands every four or five years to ensure that wear and improper storage don't create a hazard.

• Don't place cords under furniture or rugs. Use caution when using nails, tacks or pins to secure strands of lights; don't pierce the wire coverings with such items.

• Keep light strands away from sources of heat or moisture. Cover the tree's water basin to ensure that lights don't come into contact with it.

• Make sure strands of lights don't dangle or lay loosely where young children can grab a hold of them. It could result in the tree toppling over or present a strangulation hazard.

• Even low wattage bulbs can get hot enough to burn small, tender fingers. Keep them out of reach as much as possible.

• Make sure a fully operational smoke detector resides in close proximity to a tree that features holiday lights.

• When decorating outside, use only lights that are approved for outdoor use. Plug all outdoor lights into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) to avoid the risk of a serious shock.

Have a very Happy Holiday Season!!!