Welcome to this month’s installment of Dear Urbaneer, where our clients put our real estate knowledge to task with their questions. At Urbaneer, we are truly invested in your happiness long after your home sale has closed, because home ownership is truly a daily experience. That’s why in addition to information about the market and buying and selling real estate, my team and I are happy to provide knowledge to help enhance your experience as a home owner, like our Healthy Home series which addresses issues like asbestos, household mold, kitec plumbing, radon gas and knob and tube wiring.
This is the first of a series of posts on handy ‘Homeowner Essential’ lists, where I’ll make suggestions on essentials that you need to have on hand to manage your home & garden and reminders for essentials to make life easier when you move into your new home. This time around, I’m helping a client wondering about how to be prepared for an emergency at home.
It seemed so overwhelming when I was looking for my first home to learn all I had to about the home buying process. Now that I’m a home owner, I find myself feeling a bit of the same way, thinking that there is much to learn about maintaining and protecting my home for the future. Is there anything I can do to protect my home for disasters? How should I prepare for emergencies? I know I can’t control everything, but I’d like to do what I can to reduce damage, if disaster should ever strike.
Help Me Protect My New Home
I’m so happy that you’re settled into your new home and am pleased to hear that you are really embracing home ownership so proactively. To keep your house and the asset that it represents in great shape, you need to take every step to make sure that you are prepared to manage in the event of an emergency and to mitigate potential damage to your property. In many cases, some ongoing maintenance and mindful behaviour can significantly reduce the potential for property damage.
But where to start? Here are some suggestions.
Protect Against Flooding
To protect your home against flooding, make sure that gutters and downspouts are always clean so that water can flow freely away from the house. Always redirect your downspouts away from your foundation. Always fix leaks immediately; they could be the sign of a bigger problem. A burst pipe can do serious (and expensive) damage to your home and your belongings in a matter of minutes. On the same note, always get cracks in your foundation repaired. Don’t give water a way into your dwelling.
A ruptured sewer pipe can also cause a lot of damage. Have a professional install back flow valves to ensure that sewage flows only in one direction- away from your home.
Get leaks in your roof repaired and consider upgrading to higher end roof shingles.
Keep your most valuable items upstairs. In the basement, put in shelves, rather than storing everything on the floor. Elevate your HVAC system and your hot water tank so that they aren’t sitting right on the basement floor, where they will receive the most damage.
Check your plumbing fixtures and hoses on a regular basis (don’t forget the dishwasher, fridge icemaker and washer). Ruptured washing machine hoses are some of the biggest causes of household flooding.
If you are in an area that is prone to flooding, a battery powered sump pump is a good investment.
Here is a comprehensive list of preventive measures from the Insurance Bureau of Canada
Protect Against Fire
A household fire can be absolutely devastating, so it is well worth your while to invest time to do what you can to prevent this disaster. Keep a working fire extinguisher on every floor in a noted place. Always check the expiry date. Also make sure that you have fire alarms on every level of your home. Make a habit of testing fire and carbon monoxide alarms and changing batteries (the trick is to do it on the day you turn the clocks forward and back for Daylight Savings Time).
Like a number of your other household components, your wiring will need to be replaced at some point over your home’s lifetime. Faulty wiring is one of the leading causes for household fires in Canada. Warning signs include fuses blowing frequently and lights that dim when you turn something else on. Call for an inspection right away if you experience these.
Don’t overload plugs with multiple cords; make sure that any electrical cords are intact. Sparks can fly from these and start fires on nearby surfaces. Also make sure that cords are far away from heat sources.
Don’t DIY electrical jobs; if you don’t have the proper training you are possibly creating fire hazards and you may not even know.
Be careful in the kitchen and stay close to the stove when you are cooking. The same goes for the microwave, where fires start easily. Remove anything flammable from the area of your stovetop while you are cooking (dishtowels, paper, washcloths, etc.).
If you use space heaters, make sure that there is 3ft of clearance around them. Drapes hanging over a heater can go up in flames very easily.
There is nothing like the rosy glow from a wood burning fireplace, but if you don’t attend to your chimney, there is a risk of fire. Get your chimney cleaned regularly and inspected. You should repair anything that needs fixing right away to reduce risk of fire.
Candles are a lovely way to create ambience at home, but if they are left unattended it could be disastrous. Consider switching to LED candles instead.
Don’t leave chargers for smartphones and computers plugged in when they aren’t in use. They can get quite hot. Similarly, don’t bring your smartphone or laptop with you to bed. Their lithium batteries can overheat without proper ventilation and can be flammable.
Be Prepared With An Emergency Kit
Even when you take steps to prevent a disaster at home, emergencies situations still happen. That’s why you need to make sure that your family is safe and comfortable during an emergency. Although natural disasters are rare in Toronto, there always exists the possibility of tornados or earthquakes. What you are more likely to experience is a power outage, which if it happens in the winter (i.e. during an ice storm), you need to be prepared to stay warm and fed until the power comes back on.
Believe it or not, there are varying levels to emergency preparedness. If you want to get ultra-prepared for just about any kind of disaster, check out the Canadian Red Cross, where they sell survival kits, short wave radios, hand turbines to charge smartphones for communication, food, survival gear and – of course, duct tape.
They also have ready-made kits for emergency preparedness and disaster preparedness, with things like water containers, water purification tablets, flashlight, waterproof matches and the like. Check some out here, at Canadian Safety Supplies. We also like B.C. based emergency preparedness company, 72Hours, as well as TotalPrepare – another uniquely Canadian emergency supply company.
To assemble your own kit, there are a few essentials I highly recommend that you have on hand:
• Canned food and a manual can opener
• A first aid kit
• There’s value in a generator, if possible
• Battery powered flashlight, extra batteries and a reliable emergency radio
• Extra keys
• A map of your area, in case you need to evacuate and some roads are closed
• Copies of important documents (insurance, bank info, passports,etc.)
• Pet food
• A multi-purpose knife and utensils
• Blankets or sleeping bags, and a suitably sized tent for your family
• Hand sanitizer
• Matches, Lighters, Candles & Fuel (whether it be wood for your fireplace, propane for your bbq, or a functioning Coleman stove)
• Prescription meds
Another essential part of emergency preparedness is making a plan. Take a few minutes to determine things like family meeting places, escape routes, location of electrical panels, water and gas valves, contact person to pick up children or pets if you are unavailable, etc. Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency kit. The Government of Canada has good resources on how to assemble a kit and write an emergency plan.
We’ve always been fans of preparedness, and whether it’s a flood, a hurricane or a zombie apocolypse, you can never be too ready for whatever threats greet us in the future. Here’s a great solution to give you piece of mind should an emergency arise: 72 Hour Survival Kits – A Beginner’s Guide.
While I’m at it, now would be a good time to include some of my other essential reads including:
Did you find this helpful? At Urbaneer, my team and I are here to help with whatever your housing needs are!
~ Steven and the Urbaneer team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000
– we’re here to earn your trust, then your business –
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