Grill BlogJuly is National Grilling Safety month and whether you are deemed the “Barbeque Master” on your block or not, safety still matters! Most all safety tips really are just common sense, but with the regularity in which we barbeque each summer comes a comfort level that sometimes allows for us to overlook one or more safety items that can put  you, your loved ones, or property at risk.  Knowing what risks you are taking each time you fire up your grill puts you one step ahead of the fire and the potential damage that can come from simply doing something you do quite often.  Here are just a few things to keep in mind when grilling this season or any other season for that matter.

1.       Respect the Fire

I don’t think I need to tell you that fire is a destructive force that can quickly turn into a nightmare if taken for granted.  There are thousands of fires each year that evolve from grilling, causing injury, death and millions of dollars in property damage.  Knowing your flame and how to control it is number one.  Designate one person to watch the fire that is aware of how to cut fuel supplies, extinguish fires, and call the Fire Department. This person should also be familiar with how to treat burns.

2.       Food Safety

Although it’s probably the most obvious risk, fire is not the only one when grilling.  Food safety is key to being able to enjoy the outdoors when on vacation, at a party, or even just a quiet family dinner.  Bacteria can eat and exist on every kind of food that you possibly imagine.  It can grow and multiply at any temperature and if you aren’t careful, can prove to be one of the worst experiences of your life (no joke).  If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you may agree that it may just be the worst type of “sick” you’ve ever been.  Keep in mind when you are done serving up yourself and your guests, everything gets put into the fridge.  A few rules of thumb: Wash your Hands, Cover it Up, Keep it Cool, Get it Hot!, and simply put…Use your Head.   Bacteria can grow on anything that is above freezing and can stay alive until the temperature hit’s 165 degrees F.

3.       Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)…aka Smoke

Acenaphthene, acenaphthylene, and fluoranthene…wait what????  These are just 3 of the 18 of the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) that can take flight when grease begins to burn.  Just like second hand cigarette smoke can give you cancer, so can smoke from grilling.  Although, the smell of a grill can be nostalgic and somewhat enjoyable when cooking up your hamburgers and hotdogs, be sure to keep your distance.  The younger you are, the worse effect it can have on you.

4.       Gas Safety

Do you know what the some of the number one causes of a gas fire is?

a. Gas leak

b. Bugs

c. Organic Materials

d. All of the Above

If you chose “d”, congratulations!  You are one step closer to knowing your grilling safety and keeping yourself, loved ones and your property out of harm’s way.  Any of the items listed above can ignite a gas fire when you start up your grill because they are “hidden” behind, underneath, or inside your grill where you don’t often look.  Check out your grill from all angles before firing it up. Look for anything that could be flammable near or around your grill and remove it accordingly.  In addition to being gross and annoying, bugs can cause all kinds of damage in regards to your grill that may result in a gas flowing where it shouldn’t.  Check for leaks and other possible breakages that can result in a fire.

5.       Drink Responsibly

Most of us like to cool it down with a tasty alcoholic beverage when grilling, but much like driving, alcohol and grilling do not go hand in hand.  Grilling requires clear a mind.  Be sober, be alert, and above all be responsible when grilling!

For more safety tips on grilling, please visit http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/cooking.shtm.  Be calm and grill on my friends!

Are you prepared in the event of an emergency? (image via flickr)

Today’s newspapers and internet sites seem to highlight some new catastrophe almost every day.  Whether it is a drought in the U.S., flooding caused by a typhoon in the Philippines, or an earthquake that destroys most of an island nation, emergency situations are all around us.  Now, more than ever, families need to take steps to be ready in case one of these catastrophic events comes to call.

September is National Preparedness Month and organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross will be working with communities and families to raise awareness about the need for emergency preparedness and to offer advice and information on what kind of preparations need to be made.  The primary goal of National Preparedness Month is to get people to understand the importance of preparing before disaster strikes.  To help increase awareness, here are 4 things every household should do in order to be ready and be able to respond.

1.     Fire Evacuation Plan

In 2010, statistics show there were more than 360,000 house fires in the U.S.  and 2,640 people lost their lives as a result.   Unlike some other natural disasters that only impact certain areas, house fires can happen to anyone.  Make sure your family has a fire evacuation plan that includes at least two ways out of every room.

2.     Emergency Contact Information

One of the scariest things family members encounter when there is a crisis is not being able to find loved ones.  Establishing an emergency communication plan that includes meeting places, important contact numbers, and how to use an out of town relay to locate and communicate with each other is your best defense.

3.     Evacuation Plan

If the time ever comes that it is no longer safe to remain in your home, you won’t likely have time to formulate the best evacuation plan either.  In order to be ready if that order ever comes, you need to know where the closest shelter is in your town as well as where emergency shelters can be found in neighboring towns or cities.  You need to have an emergency kit that contains everything your family will need for 72 hours already packed and ready to go with you in the car.

4.     Sheltering in Place

Just like there are times when you must leave your home, there are times when leaving is the last thing you want to do.  Every family should have a plan for remaining in their home for several weeks without access to outside resources like the grocery store or essential services like electricity.   By stocking enough food, water, medicine, and other critical supplies ahead of time, you can feel confident that if there is a reason not to go out, you won’t have to just to survive.

You don’t need to stockpile several years of food, learn to spin your own wool thread, or spend thousands of dollars on tools and equipment it is unlikely you will ever use in order to be prepared.  It only takes a little time, a little effort, and a trip or two to the grocery store to make sure your family is ready to weather whatever storms come your way.

 

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Is your property in danger of flooding? If so, would it be insured? Photo Credit: deborah.soltesz on Flickr

If you are like many homeowners who believe that water damage caused by flooding is covered under their homeowners policy, you probably think the answer to that question is no.  However, if you own a home and it ever rains where you live, the answer to this question is probably yes.  If it rains, it can flood, and if it floods, any damage caused to your home and property will not be covered unless you have a flood insurance policy.

Flood insurance in the U.S. is not included in homeowner’s policies or business property insurance policies; it is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to homeowners and businesses in participating NFIP communities.  In order to become a participating community, a town or city must agree to adopt, uphold, and enforce ordinances that help reduce the risk of flooding as mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  If your town or city is not an NFIP participating community, flood insurance is not available to you.  To find out if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, visit the National Flood Insurance Program Community Status Book on FEMA’s website and click on your state.

What Causes Flooding?

A flood is defined as “the temporary inundation of two or more normally dry acres of land or two or more adjoining properties by water or mudflow.”  There are a number of circumstances that can cause flooding and the danger exists is areas prone to rain and areas that are generally very dry.  Common causes of flooding are hurricanes, tropical storms, excessive or heavy rainfall, and snowmelt.  While we often think of weather conditions as the main threat for flooding, there are also circumstances that can result in flooding where it is not usually expected and without any forewarning.  Things like a dam break, ice jam, or a clogged drainage system can also result in flooding that would not be covered by a homeowner’s policy.

Flooding in Arizona

Here in Arizona, floods are a common hazard that results from heavy rains, monsoons, or other storms that result in excessive rainfall.  According to FEMA’s Arizona FloodSmart Fact Sheet, the state is particularly prone to flash floods which come out of nowhere and can happen after only a few minutes of heavy rainfall.   Arizona residents are also at a higher risk for flooding after seasons with a significant number of wildfires, like last year.  Wildfires change the landscape and alter the ground conditions making it possible for flooding to occur in different areas than prior years.    According to FEMA, there were five federally declared flood disasters in Arizona between 2000 and 2010.  These historical disasters provide a detailed picture of how flooding can happen here and how devastating its effects can be for communities and residents.

  • 2010 – Combination of the damage caused by the Schultz Wildfire and heavy rains in July and August left 38 homes flooded and damaged by mud and debris.
  • 2006 – July and August monsoons caused widespread flooding that affected 93 communities across the state and cost more than $4M in damages.
  • 2000 – During a three week period at the end of October and beginning of November, 440 homes were damaged by flooding resulting in more than $4M in damages.

Protect your home, your possessions, and your peace of mind by purchasing a flood insurance policy today.  Don’t wait until you are knee deep in water and watching your furniture float out the window to decide you need flood insurance.

 
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Earthquake

Are you protected in the event of an earthquake? image via martinluff on Flickr

No matter where in the U.S. you live, there is a chance that there could be an earthquake in your area.  Of the 50 states, there are only 8 that haven’t experienced a single earthquake in the last 30 years according to the United State Geological Survey (USGS).  But even those states that have been safe the past thirty years are not immune from quakes or from damage caused by quakes occurring in adjoining states.  The simple fact is, if you live in the U.S., you run the risk that an earthquake will cause damage to your home.   If that happens, the only way that your insurance company will pay for the damage is if you have purchased additional coverage specific to earthquakes.

For those living in Hawaii, Alaska, and California, the three most seismically active states, earthquake insurance may seem to be a requirement.  However, even in those states, many homeowners haven’t purchased the extra coverage that would protect them from large losses.  According to the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), which provides the majority of earthquake coverage to California homeowners, only 12% have purchased earthquake coverage.   In Alaska, which is one of the most seismically active areas in the entire world, this number is only a little higher at about 33%.

Why Don’t Homeowners in High Risk Areas Buy Coverage

There are several reasons that even homeowners in Alaska and California don’t have earthquake insurance.  Unfortunately, one of the main reasons is that there are still people who believe that their homeowner’s policy will cover any losses resulting from an earthquake.  In almost every case, this simply isn’t true.  Other homeowners have made the conscious decision not to purchase this additional coverage because they feel the cost of the coverage plus the high deductible that is standard on earthquake policies makes the coverage unaffordable.  Still others believe that if there is a disaster, the government will be there to help make them whole and help them rebuild their house.

So, Why Do I Need it?

There are four reasons that every homeowner should look into purchasing an earthquake policy, even those who live in states that are not high on the earthquake risk list.

1.     If you live outside the big three, coverage is likely much less expensive than you think.

2.     Houses outside of the big three are rarely built with earthquake resilience in mind.  This means that if there is an earthquake, there is likely to be more damage to structures and property than there would be in California, Alaska, or Hawaii.

3.     It doesn’t take a catastrophic quake to cause catastrophic losses.

4.     Between 2001 and 2011, the USGS reports that there were more than 40,000 earthquakes in the U.S., almost 5,000 of which did not occur in the big three states.

5.     FEMA estimates that a major earthquake in a city with a large population could result in damages exceeding $200B.  Without insurance, you will be completely reliant on federal and state disaster relief for any assistance.  As the average award individual/family falls between $2,000 and $4,000 per family and the maximum grant is less than $15,000, you will be hard pressed to rebuild and recover.

Earthquake insurance is the kind of thing that it is easy to convince yourself you don’t need… until you do.  Then, it’s too late.

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