Tag Archives: Home

15 Post-Flood Home Cleaning Tips

Clean up after a flood, hurricane or storm zaps you of energy and patience. Does it ever end?!

We’ve asked some folks who have lived through this (and, yes, there is a an end to the clean up) to pass on some tips that they used for cleaning – including advice on wood furniture, rugs, cooking utensils and more. Good stuff here.

Getting a professional home restorer is something to consider – talk with your insurance agent to see if your policy covers the service.

Don’t Trip the Kids on Halloween

This Halloween, take a few moments and get your house ready for the festivities.

  1. Avoid tripping trick-or-treaters!
    Take things like hoses, ladders, flowerpots, wires, lawn furniture and bikes off your porch, driveway and sidewalk – anywhere you think kids (or adults) may be walking on Halloween.
  2. Turn on porch and outside lights
    It’s easier for trick-or-treaters to see! (This is a good time to replace burnt-out, outdoor light bulbs.)
  3. Clean sweep
    Sweep the leaves off your walkways and porches.
  4. Clear the path
    Keep outdoor decor, jack-o-lanterns and candles away from sidewalks, dry leaves, and Halloween decorations – you get the idea.
  5. Pets
    Dogs, cats and other pets may be frightened or excited by the ringing doorbell, trick-or-treat screaming and unexpected Halloween visitors. If you have an excitable pet, consider putting him or her in a safe, quiet area away from the festivities.
  6. Candy – or no?
    Purchase individually wrapped candies. Or, consider handing out non-candy alternatives like colored pencils, erasers, small pads of paper (perfect for notes, doodles and diaries.)
  7. Not home?
    If you are going out, remember to turn on home security systems and lock doors and windows. And, don’t leave the porch light on! In many communities, a lit porch light means you’re ready for trick-or-treaters.
  8. Caution!
    If you’re out driving, be cautious and go slowly – Halloween is Saturday this year and a big night for kids and families and they are walking the neighborhood.

– Susan

Leave Your House in 3 Minutes – What to Take?

If you were forced to evacuate your home and you only had 3 minutes, what would you grab?

The Grab-and-Go kit came about after readers sent us what they wished they’d had after they had to evacuate. Here are 10 things you should have ready to go at any moment.

  1. Cash (at least $100 – ATMs might not work in an emergency), credit cards, checks, IDs
  2. Cell phone and extra charger
  3. Clothing for each family member for a week (grab extra items for winter)
  4. Extra set of house and car keys
  5. Family heirlooms, jewelry, art, anything else that has sentimental value and is “irreplaceable”
  6. Home videos and photos, digital camera memory cards
  7. Important papers (i.e. birth certificates, insurance policies, marriage certificates, house deeds, passports, address book
  8. Medications and other special needs (enough for a week or two)


  1. Put these items in a backpack, duffle, plastic container, etc.
  2. Make sure it is sturdy and possibly water-proof in case of flooding or other water damage (i.e. water from fire hoses).
  3. Tell your family members about the location and importance of this kit and when to grab it!

Remember to update your kit or check on its  location at least once a month.

Don’t Let the Pumpkin Burn the House Down

Every year, fires during the holiday season (which we’re stretching from Halloween through New Year’s) cause around $930 million dollars in property damage. Take extra precautions by following these tips.

Holiday Decorations

  1. When we say ‘holiday’ we mean Halloween, Thanksgiving, religious holidays and New Year’s Eve.
  2. Consider using decor (artificial tree, scarecrow) that is labeled “flame resistant.”
  3. Do not place your tree, lit pumpkin or outdoor lights close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent.
  4. Evergreens:
    • If you do use an evergreen, water it daily to keep it from drying out.
    • Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.
  5. If you do use an evergreen, water it daily to keep it from drying out.
  6. Lights:
    • Make sure to inspect stringed lights and window ornaments annually for deterioration.
    • Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe.
    • Use lights in their designed areas. Don’t use ‘indoor’ lights outside.
    • Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
  7. All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.
  8. Don’t burn wrapping paper, candy wrappers, or boxes in your fireplace.
  9. For pumpkins, trees, outdoor decor and wreaths: Consider battery-operated candles instead of ‘real’ ones. Check out SmartCandle and Amazon.com, which has a slew of options.


  1. If you have a party with smokers, you should always check between sofa and chair pads because cigarettes, cigars and other items can drop down and smolder for hours before you even know the fire has started.
  2. Don’t smoke in bed or while sitting in furniture.
  3. Don’t leave burning cigarettes in an ashtray.
  4. Keep lighters and matches out of sight and reach from children.
  5. If you smoke outdoors, be sure to take in all ashtrays and cigarette butts so the wind does not blow the ashtray contents around your property.
  6. Make sure all butts have be extinguished before emptying the ashtrays.

The goal: Safety first, fun second.

– Susan

Reader’s Home Burglarized – Send Advice

What is it with the burglaries this summer?  A reader contacted us over the weekend about a home burglary (he was out of town at the time).

While the burglars didn’t take much (thankfully), and he’s going through the Get Help – Theft page item by item.

However, he’s also concerned that they did take enough personal info to start a rash of ID thefts.  We sent him the advice on what to do if you suspect ID theft.

If you have advice to share with this reader on what you learned after an ID theft or home burglary, email us (Susan (at) WhatHappensNow.com) and we’ll pass it on and add it to the site.

– Susan

Orlando Bloom, $500K Theft and Insurance

Orlando Bloom’s home was broken into and it’s reported  that he lost up to $500,000 of jewelry, cash and artwork.  We hope he has a home inventory and riders to cover these items. 

Be sure you have enough insurance coverage for a theft, fire or disaster.  Two years ago, after doing an article on insurance, we realized our home insurance policy didn’t reflect the home’s value. 

What does that mean?

Essentially, if our house had burned, we had only enough insurance coverage to rebuild 1/3 of it.  This is because we didn’t tell State Farm about remodels, updates and new items we’d purchased.  State Farm thought it was still the ‘old’ house and had it at the ‘old’ house value.

Many agents don’t do an annual ‘check-up’ to be sure home/property/belongings are properly covered. If you’ve recently added to your home, improved or remodeled, contact your agent for a check-up. Don’t know how to do this? No worries – here are some starter questions for you to ask your insurance agent.

– Susan

The Fire Danger is Rising – Be Smart and Stay Safe!

In some parts of the U.S., it might have seemed like winter would never end in 2009. When it did, floods in places like Fargo, ND made national news. The focus on flooding may have taken our focus away from another real danger – wildfires.

Citizens of Shakopee, MN got a huge reminder that a small fire started by a resident to burn a brush pile can cause massive damage. On April 15th, a fire tore through tall, dry grass and weeds with over 100 acres affected before fire crews could get it under control. Nearby townhouses were threatened but not destroyed.

Outdoor burning regulations vary by county. Before you start grilling, build a campfire or burn anything, contact someone at the county or city level to get information about burning regulations in your area. For example, unlawful trash burning is a punishable offense, so it is best to be armed with information and abide by the laws.

Before you burn, it would be wise to visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website at www.nfpa.org. Two other sites packed with great information are www.firewise.org and www.smokeybear.com. As of April 16th, the number of acres burned in the U.S. since January 1, 2009 is 696,115 and counting, according to smokeybear.com. Many of these would have easily been prevented if the ones who started them followed simple fire safety guidelines. Check out these sites and speak with your county or city officials first!

If you have questions or comments to share, email me – Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

Check the Smoke Detectors in Your Home

Having a working smoke alarm reduces your chance of dying in a fire by nearly one-half, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA).  You should have smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside bedrooms.  If you keep bedroom doors closed, put a smoke alarm in each bedroom

Here are more smart tips from their site:

  1. Test your alarm and check or replace your batteries today, along with the following ‘starter list.’
  2. Make sure you have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers for each floor of your home. Check with your fire department or building code official if there are code requirements for additional alarms.
  3. Many hardware, home supply or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms.
  4. Make sure the alarm you buy is UL-listed. The Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent, not-for-profit, product-safety testing and certification organization and has tested products for public safety for more than a century.

What to know about smoke detectors

There are two different types of smoke detectors available:

  1. Ionization smoke detectors typically are better at detecting fast flaming fires, which consume combustible materials rapidly and spread quickly. Examples of fast flaming fires include paper burning in a wastebasket, or a grease fire in the kitchen.
  2. Photoelectric smoke detectors generally are more effective on slow smoldering fires. These are fires that smolder for hours before bursting into flames, such as when a lighted cigarette is dropped onto a couch or bedding.

Things to know about these detectors -

  1. Some detectors have a dual sensor, which can detect both ionization (fast flames) and photoelectric (smoldering) fires.
  2. Consider purchasing ‘wireless’ or ‘interconnected’ alarm systems. This means when one alarm goes off, it will trigger the other alarms.
  3. Follow instructions for proper use and installation.
  • Generally speaking, the smoke alarms should be near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or six to twelve inches below the ceiling on the wall.
  • If on the ceiling, the smoke detector should be mounted away from corners and walls (at least 8-10 inches away).
  • In a room with a pitched ceiling, a smoke detector should be mounted at or near the ceiling’s highest point.
  • Locate smoke alarms away from air vents.

Smoke detector facts and care

  1. Smoke alarms should be replaced every eight to ten years.
  2. Consider writing the purchase date on your alarm with a permanent marker. That way, you’ll know when to replace it.
  3. Smoke detectors should not be painted.
  4. Test! Press the “test” button for a few seconds – this will activate the alarm.
  5. Clean! Smoke alarms are particle-sensitive and dust, lint or cobwebs can limit its ability to detect smoke. Keep smoke alarms clean by vacuuming the surface and around the alarm with a vacuum attachment.
  6. Replace the batteries twice a year, or earlier if necessary. (Here’s a WHN reader tip – Change smoke detector batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.)
  7. Never disconnect a good smoke detector battery if it alarms due to cooking or to use the battery for other purposes. You may not remember to put the batteries back in after cooking.

Conduct home fire drills monthly to test the condition of your equipment and ensure your family knows what to do in the event of a fire. Periodically, test the smoke alarm when your children are sleeping: reports show that children often sleep too soundly to hear the alarm.

Here’s another WHN reader tip: If you have children or elderly adults in your home, they may sleep through the alarm. Consider alternative devices such as voice warning systems or low frequency alarms. Use these together with regular smoke detectors.

– Susan

    Disaster of the Day – AIG

    Since you and I own 80% of AIG, I’d like a few words with the CEO on why he’s rewarding bad employees with multi-million dollar bonuses.

    If I lost m/billions of dollars for a company, I’d get fired no matter what my employment contract said.

    Keep whatever you have left safe. Here are some good tips.

    1. Teach your family about home security.
    2. Explain security precautions and explain why they are important in keeping your home secure.
    3. Ask each family member to remember to lock the door EVERY TIME (coming and going) and keep a careful watch on their own set of keys.
    4. Show them where the keys to internal locks are located in case they have to exit your home quickly.
    5. Tell your children to never answer the door when they are home alone.
    6. Do not trust an unfamiliar delivery, utility person or anyone else who requests access to your home, unless you have set up the appointment ahead of time and they show proper identification.
    7. Be wary of door-to-door canvassers. Most legitimate fundraisers carry a solicitor’s permit as well as an office number you can call to verify their legitimacy.
    8. Lock your doors and windows even if you step outside for just a moment.

    Need more? Go here.

    – Susan