Archive for August, 2011

10 Security Threats that Scare Homeowners

Home ownership is something many American’s take for granted and for others is just a dream. What some don’t realize is that owning a home comes with a whole new set of responsibilities and problems. This is why homeowner insurance is so important and required by mortgage holders. Here are 10 of the security threats that scare homeowners. 

  1. Burglary – The first thing that comes to mind when mentioning security threats is burglary. The risk of being robbed is higher in some areas than others, but even in low risk areas, the threat is there. Many homeowners invest in security systems to prevent break-ins.
  2. Fire – The biggest threat to any homeowner is fire. Even if a fire is caught and put out, the damage to the home and its contents is devastating. Nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming loss of your home and possessions to a house fire. Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and even sprinkler systems can be purchased to help prevent fires from consuming your home.
  3. Floods – The threat of flooding is so prevalent in most of the county that there is a national flood insurance program provided by the federal government. Since some areas only flood about every 100 years, people can live in an area for generations without knowing they have a threat. Water damage in a home is very expensive and difficult to repair.
  4. Earthquakes – Another natural disaster that threatens homeowner’s security is earthquakes. Although more prevalent in fault zones, earthquakes can happen just about anywhere and cause extensive damage to homes. People who live in high risk areas must follow special building codes to help their homes withstand minor earthquakes.
  5. Storms – Homeowners always keep a close eye on weather conditions. Hurricanes and tornadoes can cause the most devastating damage, but even a strong thunderstorm can be a major threat. Strong winds and lightening can do quite a bit of damage to your home and cause power outages.
  6. Lawsuits – Unfortunately, another big threat to a homeowner’s security is lawsuits. Anyone who injures themselves while on your property can sue for damages even if the accident was entirely their fault. People who don’t have insurance to cover awarded damages are at risk of losing their homes.
  7. Unemployment – Most people have mortgage payments that consume a large part of their monthly income. If they lose their job or are unable to work because of illness or injury, they may not be able to keep up the payments and risk defaulting on their loans.
  8. Identity theft – Another security threat that scares homeowners is identity theft. If not discovered quickly, a person’s credit can be destroyed and huge credit card bills can be racked up. Some may be forced to sell their homes to cover the costs and be unable to purchase another because of their bad credit rating.
  9. Vandalism – Something that many homeowners don’t anticipate is the threat of vandalism. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who don’t have any respect for other people’s property. A broken window may be covered by the insurance, but is still a big headache to repair.
  10. Winter – People who live in cold climates need to be concerned about damage to their homes in the winter. Sub-freezing temperatures can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and heavy snows can collapse a roof. If a homeowner goes on vacation to escape the cold weather, they need to make sure the furnace doesn’t quit and let their house freeze up.

Homeowner insurance doesn’t cover all of these security threats, but can help defray the cost of most of them. It’s important to know the degree of risk for any of these threats in your particular circumstances. Home ownership can be somewhat scary, especially in today’s uncertain economic situation. Know what the threats are and take steps to prevent them to make owning your home less risky and more secure.

10 Essential Elements of a Home Fire Escape Plan

We all know, if we let ourselves think about it, that a fire in our home is possible and can be deadly, but what have we done to prepare for it? Here are 10 elements that are essential, when it comes to getting your family out of your home safely in the event of a home fire.

  1. Smoke Alarms. There should be a smoke alarm in each sleeping area of your home, and one in the area just outside the sleeping rooms, as well as having smoke alarms on each level of the home. There should also be smoke alarms in the stairways between levels, and one in any room that is regularly closed off while being used, such as an office or media room. Smoke alarms should be tested once per month to assure that their batteries are good. Direct-wired alarms are not recommended, as an electrical fire can render them useless.
  2. Floor Plan. Take the time to create a floor plan, map, or grid of your home. Study it together as a family, so that everyone knows escape routes from each room in case a fire separates family members.
  3. Clear Escape Routes. Make sure that all escape routes to windows and doors are free of blockages at all times.
  4. Alternate Route Plans. Your escape plan should include two routes out of each room, in order to assure that no one is trapped if a fire blocks a primary exit.
  5. Outside Meeting Place. Designate a meeting place outside the home, for everyone to gather after escaping the home.
  6. Practice. Assemble your family once per month to practice your escape plan. Keeping the practices short, and assuming the fire starts in a different room for each practice, on a rotating basis from month to month, is a good idea.
  7. Hot Doors. The plan should stress that a hot door should never be opened during a fire event. Hot doors mean fire is on the other side.
  8. Once Out, Stay Out. Once you or a family member has escaped the home, it should never be re-entered. Gather in your outside meeting place, and if anyone is missing, one member can run around the outside of the house, pounding on walls and shouting to get the attention of anyone left inside.
  9. No Elevators. If you live in a multi-story building, never use elevators in order to escape during a fire event. Elevators are a trap if the power is lost.
  10. Sleepovers. If your child asks to stay overnight at a friend’s house, always speak to the parents of the friend, to assure yourself that they also have smoke alarms and an escape plan, before giving answer. Also, the parents should be willing to include your child in an escape practice before the sleepover proceeds. The same, of course, should be done when your child has a friend in your home for an overnight stay.

These 10 essentials make a good guideline in order to assure the safety of your family in others during a home fire event. In creating your plan, you will likely find others that are essential to the peculiarities of your home. Be prepared and be safe.   

7 Really Stupid Home Burglary Stories

Having your home burglarized is no laughing matter, but occasionally, the antics of ‘not so smart’ burglars are worth a few chuckles, especially when it ends up with them being caught. We’ve put together a list of seven of the stupidest burglar stories we could find. 

  1. Sleeping on the Job.  According to this CBS news story, this Malaysian home burglar broke into a residence while the owners were away from home for the evening. Like Goldilocks in the home of the three bears, he decided to take a little nap before leaving the home with his goods. When the homeowners returned in the morning, they found him still asleep in the house and called the authorities before he woke up. He should get plenty of sleep time in his new accommodations.
  2. Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? This report from the Salt Lake City Tribune tells the tale of a burglar who forgot to eat before going on his nightly raid. The burglar helped himself to a couple of cans of soup while he was in the home. That may not seem so stupid, except that he obviously wasn’t as careful about handling the soup can’s as he was about other areas of the home. The police were able to identify him by the fingerprint he left on one of the soup cans he left behind.
  3. Facebook Folly I Even in a big city like Washington D.C., posting your own picture on the facebook page of your victim while you are committing the crime is a pretty foolish thing to do. The burglar posted the picture while in the home and showing off the cash and coat that he was stealing. Because the police had his photo, they were able to quickly link him to the crime when they picked him up for unrelated reasons a few weeks later.
  4. Facebook Folly II  - This one was in Pennsylvania. Instead of posting his picture on the victim’s facebook page, this foolish crook logged on to his own facebook account from the victims computer. If the burglar had stolen the computer, he might not have been caught. Instead, he stole two diamond rings and left the computer with his facebook account still open on the it. The victim discovered the open facebook account of a stranger on her computer and shared it with law enforcement when she reported the burglary. He was quickly identified and had to change his status to ‘incarcerated’.
  5. From Ashes to …Cocaine?  In this CNN report from Florida, burglars took jewelry, electronics and the cremated remains of the victims father and two dogs. It was later learned that the burglars took the ashes assuming that the powder was cocaine and had actually snorted some of it before finding out what it was they had actually stolen.
  6. Charged with Unauthorized ‘Charging’ Cellphones have been another cause of stupid burglars being foiled in their attempts to escape the law. In this case in the burglar found that his cellphone battery was running low and ‘luckily?’ had brought his phone charger with him. He plugged his charger in and attached his cellphone. In his hurry to leave when the occupants returned, he left the cellphone and charger behind, leading to his arrest.
  7. Moonlighting with the Company Vehicle A technology gadget foiled this crafty burglar. He did his burglary work while driving a company owned vehicle. Apparently unaware that the vehicle had a GPS tracking device installed under the hood, the burglar was caught when a neighbor mentioned seeing the tow truck he was driving in the neighborhood the day of the burglary.

Thankfully, the police were able to apprehend these burglars with a little help from their own ineptness. Not all burglars are this stupid. So keep your home secure. You never know when you might be the next victim.

10 Ways People Get Locked Out of Their House

I’m pretty sure that everyone has been locked out of their house at least once. Some people have taken it to the extreme and had multiple keys made to either hide or give to someone else because they get locked out so often. Listed below you will find ten ways people get locked out of their house.

  1. Getting the mail/newspaper. You walk out the door to get the mail thinking that you left the door unlocked, or you leave it open and it shuts on you. Hopefully, you remembered to get dressed and are not standing out there in your fuzzy slippers and robe.
  2. Starting the car. For those of us that live in the extreme cold or even hot it has become a custom to go out to start the car to get it to warm up or cool off depending on the weather. However, not all of us keep our house keys and car keys on the same key chain, and you could easily get locked out of the house if you left the house keys inside.
  3. Letting the dog out. Whether you are standing on the porch waiting for Fido to do his business ,or hooking him up to a chain, this is another easy way to get locked out of the house.
  4. Watering the grass/flowers. Another simple but easy way to get locked out. Most of us do not carry our keys at all times, and stepping out to water you lawn is another way to accidentally lock yourself out of the house.
  5. Going for a walk/run. It can be a habit to lock your door on the way out, without even realizing you did it. When you’re wearing your sweats, and don’t have any pockets, it can be easy to do this without having any keys on your person.
  6. Locking keys in the car. This is a popular one. If you keep your house keys on the same key chain as your car keys and then lock your keys in the car you are subsequently locked out of your house as well.
  7. Losing keys while not at home. Have you ever had that panicked moment while in a restaurant or at a friend’s house when you couldn’t find your keys? Not only do you have to find a ride, but possibly a place to sleep as well.
  8. Having a lock that opens from inside when locked. I’m not sure about you, but I think this was one of the worst inventions ever. Even though the door is locked you can still open it from the inside. Once you step out and close the door, you are locked out.
  9. Thinking you left it unlocked. As mentioned above, locking the door becomes a habit and you can do it without even realizing it. A lot of people get locked out of their house simply because they thought they left it unlocked, and didn’t need their keys. Or maybe you are leaving in a group and someone else locks the door when you planned on leaving it open.
  10. Someone changed the locks. This is by far the worst way of getting locked out of the house. You get into a fight with your significant other, or maybe even your parents, and they change the locks. The problem with this one is you probably won’t get back in without some serious groveling.

Locking yourself out of the house is no fun and having someone else lock you out is even worse. After reading the list of ten ways people lock themselves out of the house hopefully you won’t feel as bad knowing others do it too and may share in some of the common pitfalls as well.