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Fire, Preventative, Uncategorized

No one likes to think about the possibility of fire, flood, storm damage, or theft. But should such a disaster occur, you’d need to provide your insurance company with a detailed list of your belongings in order to be reimbursed for lost or damaged items. Without a home inventory prepared in advance, that list would need to be pieced together from memory. In the stressful aftermath of a disaster, could you count on your memory to recall what items have been lost and what they were worth? If not, you’ll likely get less compensation than you deserve. Now’s the time to compile that essential inventory so you can start the year with a greater sense of security that your personal property will be protected. Here, answer to all your questions about a home inventory—and helpful pointers on how to get it done.

Do You Really Need a Home Inventory?

It’s fairly easy to remember large items, such as big screen TVs and the grandfather’s clock in your living room, but could you name every necklace in your jewelry box without looking? If you had to list all your valuables after a natural disaster or property crime, it’s likely you wouldn’t remember all of them. And once you accept reimbursement from your insurance company, you can’t make additional claims. In addition to helping you file a claim that truly reflects the value of your property, a home inventory can be instrumental in obtaining more insurance coverage. If you collect original art, for instance, the value of your collection may well exceed your policy’s coverage limit for personal belongings. In that case, your home inventory can serve as evidence of the value of your collection, and you’ll be able to purchase a rider to your policy that specifically covers the art at a higher reimbursement value.

What Should a Home Inventory Include?

Just because your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy lists a maximum coverage amount for personal belongings, that doesn’t mean you’ll receive that amount after a loss. The reimbursement you receive depends on your ability to prove what items you owned, so in addition to a list of appliances, electronics, jewelry, and other valuables, you should briefly describe each individual item, including identifying the model and/or serial numbers as well as estimated value. To establish value, the inventory should include the original receipt or a copy. (If you file original receipts with your income tax papers, a copy should be kept with your home inventory.) Finally, a photo of each item should be included with the inventory as well

When Should You Compile an Inventory?

January is the ideal time to create or update your home inventory. The excitement of the holidays will be over yet you can still easily locate receipts from big-ticket purchases—many of which are made between Black Friday and Christmas. Get in the habit of addressing your home inventory needs every year at this time, and you’ll be protected in the event disaster strikes.

What Format Options Are Available?

The traditional method of creating a home inventory is to make a list of all your belongings on paper, supplementing it with photos, videos, valuations, and receipts. Because you’ll need access to the information in the event that your belongings are destroyed or stolen, if you choose to go this route, it’s wisest to store the inventory documents outside your home in a safety deposit box. A fireproof, waterproof home safe might keep the inventory intact through a natural disaster, but if the lockbox is stolen you’d be out of luck. Today’s technology offers another format for a home inventory that may be simpler to compile and safer to store. Mobile apps such as Sortly, which may be available for both iOS and Android devices, let you record each item’s photo, serial number, and purchase date, as well as add a description and a picture of the receipt. Best of all, your home inventory can be stored in a Cloud-based file, such as Dropbox. In addition to general home inventory apps, you may be able to use an insurer-specific app, depending on the company you’re insured with. Apps are available from major insurers, such as American Family and Allstate. Check with your insurance agent to see if they have a free home inventory app you can download

What’s the Best Way to Take Inventory?

The rule to remember when making a home inventory is: If it’s in your house, it has value. To make your home inventory, go room by room and detail all the belongings therein. If you’re including a paper copy, consider using a home inventory form, such as this one from Allstate. Your insurer can also provide a free form on request.

  • Start on one side of a room and systematically work your way around until you’ve documented every item in the room.
  • You need not document perishable food items and short-term supplies, such as pencils, paper, rubber bands, and other items that are used up quickly.
  • You need not document perishable food items and short-term supplies, such as pencils, paper, rubber bands, and other items that are used up quickly.
  • Photograph each wall in every room for item location purposes.
  • Take multiple photos of expensive items, such as computers, and when possible, get close-up shots of model numbers and serial numbers.
  • Open drawers and closets and document their contents.
  • Take close-up photos of receipts, or keep them with your inventory.
  • When a receipt isn’t available, document the year the item was purchased and its original cost.
  • Pace yourself so you don’t get overwhelmed. Allow one or more weekends to get through it all.

When Should a Home Inventory Be Updated?

Hold onto receipts from all major purchases you make throughout the year and update your home inventory annually, preferably around the first of the new year. Updating includes taking new room photos if you’ve moved items, in addition to recording new purchases and gifts. If the estimated value of your home inventory exceeds the maximum amount your insurance policy allows, contact your insurer and have your policy updated to reflect the additional value.

Source: https://www.bobvila.com/articles/home-inventory/

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Fire, Preventative

Portable Heater Safety for the Chilly Months Ahead

Small space heaters are typically used when the main heating system is inadequate or when central heating is too costly to install or operate. In some cases, small space heaters can be less expensive to use if you only want to heat one room or supplement inadequate heating in one room. They can also boost the temperature of rooms used by individuals who are sensitive to cold, especially elderly persons, without overheating your entire home. Space heater capacities generally range between 10,000 Btu and 40,000 Btu per hour, and commonly run on electricity, propane, natural gas, and kerosene (see wood and pellet heating for information on wood and pellet stoves). Although most space heaters work by convection (the circulation of air in a room), some rely on radiant heating. Radiant heaters emit infrared radiation that directly heats objects and people within their line of sight, and are a more efficient choice when you will be in a room for only a few hours and can stay within the line of sight of the heater. They can also be more efficient when you will be using a room for a short period because they save energy by directly heating the occupant of the room and the occupant’s immediate surroundings rather than the whole room. Safety is a top consideration when using space heaters. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in more than 300 deaths. In addition, an estimated 6,000 people receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting the hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations. When buying and installing a small space heater, follow these guidelines:
  • Only purchase newer model heaters that have all of the current safety features. Make sure the heater carries the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label.
  • Choose a thermostatically controlled heater, because they avoid the energy waste of overheating a room.
  • Select a heater of the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Do not purchase oversized heaters. Most heaters come with a general sizing table.
  • Locate the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic. Be especially careful to keep children and pets away from the heater.

Vented and Unvented Combustion Space Heaters

Space heaters are classified as vented and unvented or “vent-free.” Unvented combustion units are not recommended for use inside your home, because they introduce unwanted combustion products into the living space—including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and water vapor—and deplete air in the space. Most states have banned unvented kerosene heaters for use in the home and at least five have banned the use of unvented natural gas heaters. Vented units are designed to be permanently located next to an outside wall, so that the flue gas vent can be installed through a ceiling or directly through the wall to the outside. Look for sealed combustion or “100% outdoor air” units, which have a duct to bring outside into the combustion chamber. Sealed combustion heaters are much safer to operate than other types of space heaters, and operate more efficiently because they do not draw in the heated air from the room and exhaust it to the outdoors. They are also less likely to backdraft and adversely affect indoor air quality. Less expensive (and less efficient) units use the room air for combustion. They do not have a sealed glass front to keep room air away from the fire and should not be confused with a sealed combustion heater. In addition to the manufacturer’s installation and operating instructions, you should follow these general safety guidelines for operating any combustion space heater:
  • For liquid-fueled heaters, use only the approved fuel. Never use gasoline! Follow the manufacturer’s fueling instructions. Never fill a heater that is still hot. Do not overfill the heater — you must allow for the expansion of the liquid. Only use approved containers clearly marked for that particular fuel, and store them outdoors.
  • Have vented space heaters professionally inspected every year. If the heater is not vented properly, not vented at all, or if the vent is blocked, separated, rusted, or corroded, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) can enter the home causing sickness and death. CO also can be produced if the heater is not properly set up and adjusted for the type of gas used and the altitude at which it is installed.

Electric Space Heaters

Electric space heaters are generally more expensive to operate than combustion space heaters, but they are the only unvented space heaters that are safe to operate inside your home. Although electric space heaters avoid indoor air quality concerns, they still pose burn and fire hazards and should be used with caution. For convection (non-radiant) space heaters, the best types incorporate a heat transfer liquid, such as oil, that is heated by the electric element. The heat transfer fluid provides some heat storage, allowing the heater to cycle less and to provide a more constant heat source. When buying and installing an electric space heater, you should follow these general safety guidelines:
  • Electric heaters should be plugged directly into the wall outlet. If an extension cord is necessary, use the shortest possible heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger. Always check and follow any manufacturer’s instructions pertaining to the use of extension cords.
  • Buy a unit with a tip-over safety switch, which automatically shuts off the heater if the unit is tipped over.
If you have any questions about Fire Safety, feel free to contact Spectrum Building & Restoration at 541-385-0752.
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Fire
You’ve heard all of the preventative steps, you’ve prepped your employees, and your building is up to code. However, the easiest prevention methods are usually the most overlooked. Some of the biggest ways to avoid needing fire damage reconstruction services are usually some of the quickest to check. Inspect these things today and be sure to set reminders accordingly:
  • Smoke Detectors. Safety experts say that you should check these at least once a month and replace the batteries once a year, or as needed.
  • Fire Extinguishers. See the directions on your fire extinguisher to see when it expires and who you can call to replace your extinguishers. Extinguishers can last anywhere from five to fifteen years. Also, depending on your fire marshal’s standards, you may have to have your extinguisher certified.
  • Fire Exits and Exit Signs. Can guests clearly see exit signs? Can they easily get to them? Consider having a fire drill to ensure guests and employees can easily get out of the building in the event of an emergency. Practice regularly.
  • See any State or Local Guidelines. There are some local and state guidelines that businesses have to follow to stay up to code. Take a minute to read up on these laws or talk to your local fire marshal to learn about the guidelines
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Fire, Preventative

No matter where you live—house, apartment, dorm room, mobile home—one factor remains constant: There never seem to be enough power outlets. This may explain the popularity of multi-outlet power strips, which provide additional outlets and also let you control

  1. Refrigerators and Freezers

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    Refrigerator power strip
    Large appliances like refrigerators require a lot of power and frequently cycle on and off, which can easily overload a power strip. These devices should be plugged directly into a wall outlet dedicated solely to powering the appliance. If you try to plug additional appliances into the same outlet, you risk tripping the circuit.  

    Microwaves

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    Microwave power strip
      The microwave is a miracle of modern food preparation, thawing, cooking, and reheating food in a fraction of the time it takes a conventional oven. But all that marvelous activity requires more energy than a power strip can provide. Like a conventional electric oven, the microwave should have its own dedicated power outlet.

    Coffee Makers

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    Coffee maker power strip
      You may not think that your morning cup of joe requires that much energy to brew, but most coffee makers need quite bit of amperage to turn those roasted beans into a hot beverage. Plug your coffee maker directly into the outlet or you run the risk of waking up to a half-brewed pot of coffee.  

    Toasters

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    Toaster power strip
      If you’ve ever peered into a toaster to remove a particularly stubborn piece of broken crust, you know that the inside is basically a bunch of wires that heat up to red-hot temperatures to toast the bread. The current draw that those wires require can easily cause a power strip to overheat. This same issue affects toaster ovens, electric skillets, and waffle irons as well.

    Slow Cookers and Hot Plates

    5/11
    Crockpot power strip
      You might think you’re one clever cook when you plug your slow cooker into a power strip to free up outlet space for other countertop appliances, but you’d be wrong. These cooking appliances require more juice over a longer period of time than a power strip can handle. And because the appeal of a slow cooker is that it can operate without supervision, you definitely want to make sure it is safely plugged into a wall outlet to minimize any hazardous outcomes.

    Hair-Care Appliances

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    Hair appliances power strip
    It takes a tremendous amount of electricity to power your hair dryers, curling wands, and flat irons. In fact, to prevent the circuit breaker from tripping, any hairdressing accessory that operates with heat should be plugged directly into a wall outlet—preferably a GFCI outlet to avoid the danger of accidental water exposure, a common bathroom hazard.  

    Portable Heaters and Air Conditioners

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    Portable heater power strip
    Portable heaters and air conditioners are designed to cycle on and off, and they draw a large amount of current when they switch on. This activity can overload a power strip and either trip the circuit breaker or cause dangerous overheating. For that reason, these appliances should always be plugged into a dedicated outlet.

    Sump Pumps

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    Sump pump
    A sump pump is often the last defense for a dry basement in the event of flooding. Because most power strips are not designed to be used in damp or wet conditions, they’re unsuitable for use with a sump pump. Instead, plug a sump pump into a GFCI outlet, preferably one installed some height above the floor in case flooding ever does occur.

    Air Compressors

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    Air compressor power strip
    Portable air compressors are handy household helpers for the ambitious DIYer, but they draw a huge amount of energy on start-up. Rather than overloading a power strip, stick to a heavy-duty, properly rated extension cord to get the maximum use and benefit from your air tools.

    Another Power Strip

    10/11
    Power strip
    Power strips are not meant to be used in conjunction with one another. In fact, plugging multiple power strips together, which is known as “daisy-chaining,” is the quickest way to overload your electrical system—and it’s also dangerous and violates most fire safety codes. For the same reason, avoid the use of extension cords with power strips. If you find yourself short of outlets, try unplugging one device before you plug another one in—or cut the cord and find power-free alternatives to your household appliances. If you have more questions about some of the items posted here, feel free to call Spectrum at 541-385-0752
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Fire
The death of a family of fourfrom Iowa at a property in Mexico has illustrated the potentially lethal hazards when renting a home or condominium for vacation. Authorities say Kevin and Amy Sharp and their two children were found dead on March 23 after they inhaled a toxic gas in their vacation rental in Tulum.
Websites like Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO), which rented the condo to the Sharp family, indicate that the company is not responsible for the condition of the property. So how do you know if a vacation rental property is safe for your family? TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen spoke with an expert who provided three things you should do the moment you first arrive at your vacation rental in order to protect your family.
Experts believe the toxic gas that killed the Sharp family was most likely carbon monoxide, which is tasteless, odorless and invisible. Dave Hamilton with the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy in New Jersey noted to Rossen how it’s not possible to tell that a hot water heater is leaking gas even by standing right next to it. So there is a crucial item to bring on vacation – a carbon monoxide detector. Hamilton suggests mounting a battery-operated or plug-in carbon monoxide detector, which can be purchased for under $30, right outside the room that contains the furnace and water heater. Those are usually the common generation points for carbon monoxide. In many popular vacation destinations in foreign countries, carbon monoxide detectors are not necessarily required by law.
“One of the best things you can do is take one, and put it in your suitcase,” Hamilton told Rossen. “Travel with it. They’re going to protect you.” Another potential danger in vacation rentals is fire, as you would have no idea if the home you rented is up to code. Hamilton suggests immediately learning where the fire extinguisher in the rental is located and double-checking so that you know how to get to it quickly in case of an emergency. Hamilton’s third tip is making sure you know where all the exits to the home are located so that you have a fire escape plan. “Not just the front door, you need to know where the secondary exits are,” he said. “For example, there’s a doorway hidden behind this curtain and there’s also another doorway half way down the stairs that you would not be able to find in thick black smoke.” Three simple steps – bringing carbon monoxide detector, locating the fire extinguisher and knowing all the exits – can make sure your family can fully relax on vacation.  
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Fire, Preventative

Leading Causes of Fire

Over the past several decades, deaths from home structure fires in the United States have steadily gone down – from 5,200 in 1980 to 2,646 in 2015, according to Injury Facts 2017®. But even one death from a preventable fire is too many. While fire doesn’t discriminate by age, it is the third leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14. In 2015, 232 children in this age group died from fire and smoke inhalation. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and fire injuries, followed by heating equipment, according to NFPA. Other causes include smoking, electrical problems, children playing with fire and candles.

What You Can Do

NSC provides the following tips to keep your home safe from fire:
  • Install both types of smoke alarms (ionization and photoelectric) and carbon monoxide alarms; change the batteries at least once a year in these devices
  • Plan – and practice – an escape route and agree on a meeting place outside of your home; be prepared to assist young children, family members with special needs and pets
  • Know two ways out of every room in the home
  • Learn how to use your fire extinguisher
  • If your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll
  • When evacuating, if door handles are hot, pick an alternate route
  • Leave your house and call for help; do not go back to help someone else
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Fire, Renovations

Goodbye, monochromatic kitchens; hello, Ultra Violet.

kitchen trends
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1 Blue And Green Cabinetry

kitchen trends
MasterBrand Cabinets
Expect kitchens to take on moody ocean-inspired shades. “Blues and greens emerged as ‘go-to’ color choices for cabinetry in 2017. They are being mixed with other colors, complementing wood stains or even being used as the dominant color alone,” according to Stephanie Pierce, director of design & trends at MasterBrand Cabinets.
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2 All-Violet Everything

kitchen trends
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Pantone announced Ultra Violet as the color of the year, and it’s already shaping up to be a major trend in every aspect of home design. Shannon Zapala, co-founder of glassware brand GOVERRE explains, “One of the popular kitchen trends for 2018 is using bold, unexpected colors […] such as Ultra Violet, Pantone’s color of the year! This dramatic color exudes a feeling of luxury and elegance.”
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3 Dark Countertops

kitchen trends
Formica Corporation
Dark, deep countertops are the order of the day, according to Renee Hytry Derrington, global design lead at Formica Group. “Homeowners were intrigued with slate tiles that came in black, dark green and multi-colored rust tones. We wanted to design a slate option for countertops that had the same natural cleft detail— but combined with the growing interest in dramatic black stones. Basalt Slate is the result, and one of our most popular designs this year.”
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4 Mix-And-Match Finishes

kitchen trends
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The days of monochromatic kitchens are far behind us, according to Sue Wadden, the director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. She explains that, this year, it’s all about mixing and matching color, no need to keep it all the same: “Using multiple colors in kitchens has become a popular trend this year. For example, painting base walls or cabinets in a dark charcoal tone and upper cabinets and walls in creamy off-white tones is something we’re seeing more and more of.”
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5 High-Contrast Marble

kitchen trends
Getty
“Step aside Carrara,” says interior designer Donna Mondi. She explains that the newest ‘it’ look for the kitchen is dramatic marble that makes a statement, noting, “Marble countertops with high contrast bold veining are making quite a statement. It’s perfect for book-matching to create intense drama, or doing as a waterfall down the sides of the island. Either way this new trend is one to watch as I think it’ll be going strong for years to come
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Fire, Restoring

 

Mendocino County Fires

Spectrum Building & Restoration reconstruction crews were dispatched to assist property owners who had been affected by the fires in Mendocino County. Carpenters from Spectrum Building & Restoration who have experience in rebuilding fire damaged structures, were able to help about 10 people who had part of their homes damaged by the wildfires. The Redwood Valley and Sulphur fires burning in Mendocino County have destroyed at least 425 homes, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department. At least four commercial structures have been destroyed. As of Sunday morning, the combined fires have burned more than 37,207 acres. The fires are 37% contained. Some neighborhoods in Redwood Valley, Willits and Potter Valley are being repopulated, according to the department. For more information on the wildfires and how you could help, please click here: Mendocino Wildfires
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Fire

Buying a Home in a Fire Zone

While California and other western states may get the most media coverage for their wildfires, it’s actually the southern United States that led the country in homes destroyed by wildfires in 2016. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) there were more than 67,000 wildfires in the US last year. Those fires destroyed over 5.5 million acres, with nearly 1.6 of those lost acres in the south. Tennessee led the nation in wildfires, and the highest number of structures lost in one state – 2,000 plus residences and 53 commercial buildings. California ranked second with 754 residences and 12 commercial structures. In spite of the catastrophic possibilities when living in a rural or heavily wooded area, the benefits often outweigh the potential of a wild fire. Being in nature, isolation, pollution free air, wildlife and privacy are many of the reasons homeowners give when searching for homes in wild land and rural areas.

Three Things to Consider When Buying a Home in a Fire Zone

Fire zones are areas in a city, county or other municipality that have certain levels of fire risk associated with it, as defined in the building codes. The amount of risk is predicted on the density of the area, as well as the land use (farm vs. timber for instance), and the existing type of construction (other houses) in the area. Your first stop, and the first thing to look for when shopping for a home, is how the area is designated in terms of fire, flood, and earth quake risk. If you have a Realtor, particularly one in a fire zone area, they should also be able to tell you about a home’s designation. California, and some other states, have Realty Disclosure laws that require realtors to disclose whether or not a property is in a fire, flood, wild land, or earthquake zone prior to closing. When looking for a home in a fire zone Cathy Prudhomme, Firewise USA Program Manager for the NFPA’s Wildfire Division had tips for buyers. “Look for homes that have done wildfire risk reduction work and have incorporated good building construction features, like fire resistant roofs and siding and have done work in the 3 Home Ignition Zones using the guidelines (0 to 5 feet, 5 to 30′ and 30 – 100 feet) to reduce wildfire risk. Look at the topography or area around the house. Homes are more vulnerable if they’re located at the top of a chimney or ridge top. Make sure there’s a minimum of two ingress/egress routes. Finally, make sure the community/neighborhood is an active Firewise USA site and working with their local forestry or fire district on reducing risks in commonly owned and adjacent areas.” Once you find a house you like, take time to make sure the community is fire safe too. “Meet with the local fire department staff and/or call the local emergency manager and ask about the issues that are relevant in that specific community, since it can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Ask about the fire history in the area, drought conditions, risk ratings and the department’s response capabilities,” Prudhomme said.

Talking to Your Local Emergency Manager

After talking with the local emergency manager, contact your insurance agent for more information about insurance costs and specific fire zones in the area. If you don’t have an insurance agent, call several listed online in that area, or contact a Realtor for names of agents they work with. Remember, you’re bound to get different estimates from different agents – depending on if they are local, national or specialize in fire or flood insurance. Some insurers will require a site visit, others will not. Be sure to compare policies to make sure both companies offer the same coverage. Learn not to burn – this means educate yourself about what kinds of things to look for when buying a home in a fire zone. Things that will not only help bring your insurance rates down, but that will make your home easier to defend against a fire:
  • Homes with a pool. This can be an in-ground pool (best), or an above ground pool you install yourself. Having a readily available source of water (in addition to your house and well or city water connection) is a huge plus.
  • Metal, tile or fire resistant composite roof. Either look for a home that has such a roof, or budget to install one. Talk to your insurance agent to determine the best roof. Metal and tile tend to give the best rates and protection.
  • Defensible Space. This is space around, above, and below your home that you can use to defend against an encroaching fire. Homes don’t just burn because fire overtakes them. They can also burn from radiant heat – fire at a distance that generates heat that causes a home to combust.
Finally, if you do buy a home and end up having to evacuate because of a fire, remember everything you own, except for your life, can be replaced. “Homeowners should heed all emergency notifications from law enforcement, fire departments and emergency management personnel and evacuate as instructed,” Prudhomme said. “If they feel in danger or see the fire is moving quickly towards their property, don’t wait to receive a call, leave the home while there’s plenty of time to evacuate safely. Everyone that lives where there’s a risk of wildfire or other hazards should have a 72-hour Kit for each family member, household pets and large animals. FEMA has a comprehensive list of items that should be included in each kit.” For More information, Click Here Buying a House in a Fire Zone
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