Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation: 9 Essential Tips
Protecting Your House While Your Gone!!!!
Murphy's Law for travelers: If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong while you're on vacation -- which is arguably the worst time a household calamity can strike. Coming home from your honeymoon, African safari or Mediterranean cruise can be gloomy. But returning from a memorable journey and learning something has gone seriously wrong at home can be downright devastating.
To make matters worse, a house or apartment left empty while its owners are traveling is a tempting target for criminals. We don't want to scare you -- or leave you fearing for your treasured belongings while basking on a Caribbean beach. But it's imperative that every traveler take certain key steps to keep his or her home safe and sound while seeing the world. Basic preventative measures (which take only minutes to complete) can work wonders to help you avoid power surges, broken pipes, home invasions and more.1. Ask a Friend to Help
A simple, albeit crucial, way to gain peace of mind while traveling is to ask a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you're away. First, bribe your friend with some freshly baked cookies or cupcakes. Next, ask him or her to drive by your home once every day or so and check on the place. Give this person a key so that he or she can bring your mail in, feed your cat, water your plants, rake your leaves, etc. If you don't use a garage, you may also want to give this person a key to your car -- you never know when your vehicle may need to be moved. He or she should also have your contact information and a copy of your itinerary in case of emergencies.
Do you have more than one person visiting your house while you're away? If so, tell them about each other! If the neighbor you asked to keep an eye on your abode calls the police on your elderly cat sitter, don't say we didn't warn you.
You may want to consider using AWatchfulNeighbor.com, a subscription service that allows anyone who notices anything amiss about your home to notify you, even if you haven't asked them to keep an eye on things. The neighbor contacts the service, which then reaches out to you via phone, text or email. A subscription costs $50 a year.2. Don't Tip Off Criminals on the Web
In a world where it seems everyone is blabbing about their business on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, it's important to stop and think: Who exactly is reading this stuff? The anonymity of the Internet can encourage us to share personal information without fully realizing that there may be hundreds of complete strangers receiving our daily musings. Would you announce to a crowd that you will be leaving your house unattended for two weeks this December? If not, then you should think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on Twitter or Facebook -- especially if that information is visible to Internet users other than your friends and family (and it probably is).
Be careful what you say on your answering machine or voice mail too. Callers don't need to know that you're not home -- they just need to know that you can't come to the phone right now.3. Do Tip Off the Police
Consider notifying the police if you're going on vacation. No need to let the cops know about a weekend getaway, but do call them if you're leaving town for longer than a week. It's possible the police may go out of their way to drive by your house while on patrol, especially if you live in a small town. If you have a security alarm, leave a house key and the code with someone you trust, and provide the police and alarm company with their name and phone number. You may also want to contact your local neighborhood watch program if there's one in your area.4. Curtains Closed -- or Open?
Before you leave for vacation, you may decide to close your curtains to prevent people from peering inside your home to see whether you're there. However, closed curtains also stop those who aim to help -- the police, your neighbors or friends -- from seeing inside your house. So what's your best bet? Leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you're home, since noticeable changes could hint that you're not around anymore -- especially if your curtains are uncharacteristically left closed for two weeks. Move expensive items, like jewelry or computers, out of plain sight if they're visible from the window.5. The Lights Are on But No One's Home
Don't leave your lights on at home throughout your entire vacation in an effort to make it look like someone is in the house. Your electric bill will end up more costly than your mortgage, and, of course, leaving the lights on is not exactly "green" behavior. Plus, house lights blazing throughout the night might look a bit odd.
Instead, purchase a light switch timer that can turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule. Criminals keeping an eye on your house will notice lights flipping on and off, and will probably assume someone is doing the flipping. Nextag.com offers a comprehensive list of light switch timers available online at a variety of price points.6. Stop Your Mail
Either place a "stop" order on mail and newspapers (we also recommend this in 10 Things to Do Before You Travel), or arrange to have a friend or neighbor pick up your mail while you're away. Otherwise, a week's worth of papers piled on your front step could signal to criminals that this particular homeowner is out of town. It's easy to put your mail on hold at USPS.com.7. Put That in Your Pipe
If you live in a cold region of the world and your pipes are in danger of freezing during winter, you have another compelling reason to leave a house key with a friend while you're traveling. Ask your friend to stop by and check your faucets. If he or she turns on a faucet and only a few drops of water come out, your pipes may be frozen.
Take other precautions like making sure your pipes are properly insulated or keeping your heat on while you're away. Show your key-bearing companion the location of the water main shut-off in case a pipe breaks.8. Pull the Plug
Unplug your television, computer, toaster oven and other appliances to protect them from power surges. Do this to save power as well. According to the Consumer Energy Center, many appliances use power even when they're turned off.9. Remove Your Spare Key
That plastic rock isn't fooling anyone. If a criminal figures out you're away on vacation, it's likely that he or she will check your porch for a spare key. So reach under the mat, into the mailbox, above the door frame or into the flower pot and remove your spare key before you leave on your vacation.
General Grilling Safety
With more Americans lighting their grills than ever before, it’s important to remember that a fun barbecue is a safe barbecue.
Read the owner's manual.
The following safety tips are designed to guide you through the grilling process. Remember, anytime you work with fire, there’s a chance of getting burned. So, take precautions. Common sense and planning will prevent injuries.
Always read the owner's manual before using your grill and follow specific usage, assembly, and safety procedures. Contact the grill manufacturer if you have specific questions. (Be sure to locate your model number and the manufacturer’s consumer inquiry phone number and write them on the front page of your manual.)Grills are for outside, only.
Barbecue grills are designed for outdoor use, only. Never barbecue in your trailer, tent, house, garage, or any enclosed area because carbon monoxide may accumulate and kill you.Use in well-ventilated area.
Set up your grill in an open area that is away from buildings, overhead combustible surfaces, dry leaves, or brush. Be sure to avoid high traffic areas and always barbecue in a well-ventilated area. Be aware of wind-blown sparks.Keep grill stable.
When using a barbecue grill, be sure that all parts of the unit are firmly in place and that the grill is stable (can’t be tipped over).Follow electric codes.
If electrically-operated accessories are used (rotisseries, etc.), be sure they are properly grounded in accordance with local codes. Electrical cords should be placed away from walkways or anywhere people can trip over them.Use long-handled utensils.
Use barbecue utensils with long handles (forks, tongs, etc.) to avoid burns and splatters.Wear safe clothing.
Wear clothing that does not have hanging shirt tails, frills, or apron strings that can catch fire, and use flame-retardant mitts when adjusting hot vents.Keep fire under control.
To put out flare-ups, either raise the grid that the food is on, spread the coals out evenly, or adjust the controls to lower the temperature. If you must douse the flames with a light spritz of water, first remove the food from the grill.Be ready to extinguish flames.
Use baking soda to control a grease fire and have a fire extinguisher handy. A bucket of sand or a garden hose should be near if you don’t have a commercial extinguisher. Consider placing a grill pad or splatter mat beneath your grill.
These naturally heat resistant pads are usually made of lightweight composite cement or plastic and will protect your deck or patio from any grease that misses the drip pan.Never leave a grill unattended once lit.Stay away from hot grill.
Don’t allow anyone to conduct activity near the grill when in use or immediately following its use. The grill body remains hot up to an hour after being used.Don’t move a hot grill.
Never attempt to move a hot grill. It’s easy to stumble or drop it and serious burns could result.
These tips are not intended to be an exhaustive review of safety guidelines and should not be interpreted as precluding other procedures, which would enhance safe barbecue grill operations. Issuance of these safety tips should not be construed as an undertaking to perform services on behalf of any party either for their protection or the protection of third parties. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association assumes no liability for reliance on the contents of this information.
Printable Fact Sheet:
Summer Safety Tips for Kids
Make the Summer of 2016 a Safe One
The final school bell has rung, the pencils and notebooks are packed away and the kids are ready for some summer fun! Children love the hot summer months, because they provide the perfect opportunity to spend lots of time outside. Whether it’s swimming in the pool, hiking through the woods, taking long walks, or going for a bike ride, there is something for everyone, no matter how young or old.
We hope that everyone enjoys this special time of year, but we want to also remind parents that there are potential dangers during the summer months, and it’s important to be aware of what they are. The more information one learns about how to prevent illnesses and injuries, the less likely they will occur.
There are many areas to cover when it comes to summer safety, and we’ll review just a few here. Please keep in mind that this is a brief list of tips. For more information check out the web sites recommended at the end of this article.
Ticks are responsible for a variety of illnesses including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These diseases can be very serious. Learn ways to protect your family. Some suggestions include:
- protective clothing (long sleeves, long pants, tucking pants into socks)
- tick/bug repellant
- insect repellant for pets
- staying in the center of paths, keeping away from overgrown areas and not sitting directly on the ground
- performing tick checks on all family members every day
- being aware of signs/symptoms of tick-related illnesses
- calling the doctor for any concerns and questions
- An appropriate helmet must be worn whenever a child is “on wheels.” This means bicycles, scooters, skates, rollerblades, skateboards and more!
- The helmet must fit properly.
- Helmets can be life saving and can protect a child from serious injury.
- Be sure the right type of helmet is being used. For example, a bike helmet needs to be used for biking.
- Moms and dads should wear helmets as well.
- Teach children to walk, not run, across the street.
- Children should cross only with an adult or an older, responsible child.
- Whenever crossing the street, try to make eye contact with any drivers nearby, to be sure they see you.
- Teach children to avoid running out from between parked cars.
- Use sidewalks whenever possible.
- Always hold your child’s hand near any moving or parked vehicles.
- Adults always need to set a good example!
Adult supervision is of paramount importance. Parents need to focus on their children 100% of the time. No distractions!
- Practice “touch supervision” (a term used by the American Academy of Pediatrics). This means that at all times, the supervising adult is within an arm’s length of the child being watched, when near or in the water.
- Remember, no child or adult is “drown proof.”
- Keep in mind that children can drown in many different water sources including: bathtubs, toilets, buckets, baby pools, backyard swimming pools, community pools, streams, creeks, lakes, rivers, oceans and other places.
- Avoid sun exposure during peak sun hours (10 AM – 6 PM).
- Wear protective clothing and a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses (with 99-100% UV protection).
- Sunscreen is a must (on sunny and cloudy days)! Look for products with UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of at least 15 (according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Association of Dermatology).
- Sunscreen should be applied liberally 30 minutes before going out in the sun, and reapplied every two hours or sooner if swimming, sweating or toweling off.
- Look for shade whenever possible.
Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac
- It’s the oil from the leaves of these plants that cause the potential allergic reaction.
- Consider wearing protective clothing to help decrease the amount of exposed skin.
- Learn how to recognize what poison ivy, oak and sumac look like, so that they can be avoided.
- Avoid bushy, overgrown areas and places which may contain these plants. Try to stay on paths.
Summer First Aid Kit
- Every family should have at least one first aid kit at home which is well stocked and readily accessible.
- It’s also helpful to keep a first aid kit in the car and one to bring on trips.
- Kids get lots of cuts and scrapes during the warm summer months, so it’s nice to be prepared.
- Don’t forget to restock the kit once an item has been used.
- Be sure to keep a list of emergency numbers where they are easy to find. This list should include: emergency medical services (911), the doctor’s number, the dentist’s number, poison control, a number where mom and/or dad can be reached and any other important phone numbers.
Dehydration and Heat-Related Illnesses
- Keeping well hydrated is very important.
- Children (and adults) must remember to drink.
- Do not wait until a child says he is thirsty before offering fluids. At this point, he is already dehydrated, so be sure to provide plenty of fluids before going outside, while out in the heat and afterwards.
- Playing in the hot summer sun means lots of fluid losses, so avoid strenuous activity during peak sun hours (10 am- 6 pm). Look for shade and take lots of breaks.
- Seek medical attention immediately for any signs of heat-related illness.
- Never let children near the grill. Remember, it can remain very hot even after it is no longer being used.
- Be sure to check the internal temperature of foods on the grill, to be sure everything has been cooked appropriately.
- If picnicking outdoors, avoid leaving out foods that require refrigeration and/or foods that can quickly spoil.
IICRC Certified Firm
We are an IICRC Certified Firm
SERVPRO of Southern Scioto & Lawrence Counties is an IICRC firm. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) creates the standards for the restoration industry and provides training and certification to restoration companies. IICRC Certified Firms have the right to display the IICRC Certified Logo.
IICRC Certified Firms must
• Present accurate information to consumers and conduct business with honesty and integrity.
• Require a technician on all jobs who has been formally trained and passed all required tests.
• Require a continuing education program to keep technicians up-to-date on the latest changes in the industry.
• Maintain liability insurance to protect all parties in the event of an accident.
• Maintain a written complaint policy and agree to Better Business Bureau or similar arbitration to resolve disputes, and accept the conclusions and recommendations of arbitration.
The IICRC Develops The Standards For The Restoration Industry
The IICRC has been the driving force in establishing the main industry standards and reference guides for professional carpet cleaning, water damage restoration and mold remediation. These IICRC standards take years to develop and require the coordination of experts in the field: manufacturers, industry organizations, insurance professionals, training schools, contractors, and public health professionals.
Every five years, the standards are reviewed and updated. The water damage restoration field changes rapidly with advancements in technology and science, and therefore the standards must evolve to keep pace.
About SERVPRO of Southern Scioto & Lawrence Counties
SERVPRO of Southern Scioto & Lawrence Counties specializes in the cleanup and restoration of residential and commercial property after a fire, smoke or water damage event. Our staff is highly trained in property damage restoration and we are an IICRC Certified Firm. We believe in continuous training: from initial and ongoing training at SERVPRO’s corporate training facility to regular IICRC-industry certification, rest assured our staff is equipped with the knowledge to restore your property