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Tuesday, September 11 2012
As Hurricane Isaac relief efforts continue, American Red Cross chapters nationwide are uniting to help every family create a disaster plan.


Whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake or house fire that threatens, families need a disaster plan first to make sure they are ready when emergencies happen. “Just like no coach would bring a team onto a field without a game plan, every family needs their own game plan for emergencies,” said Russ Paulsen, executive director of Community Preparedness and Resilience at the Red Cross. “When disaster strikes, it’s too late.”


Disaster plans should include designating a meeting place right outside the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, a location where everyone should meet if they can't go home and an out-of-area contact who can help connect separated family members. All members of the household should work together on the emergency plan and each person should know how to reach other family members.


The Red Cross has tools to make it easier for people to make or update their plan. The American Red Cross Hurricane App for iPhone and Android smart phones helps people create a plan and share it with household members and over social networks. In addition, a template to build a plan is available at


“Being prepared is a family’s best defense,” said Richard Bissell, Ph.D., chair of American Red Cross Preparedness Sub-Council and member of its Scientific Advisory Council. “Having a plan is vital to making sure all household members know what to do in an emergency.”



The Red Cross has several programs to help people, businesses, schools and communities be better prepared.

  • Be Red Cross Ready is a web-based, interactive tutorial that teaches people how to be ready for emergencies.
  • Red Cross Ready Rating™ is a free, web-based membership program that measures how ready businesses, organizations and schools are to deal with emergencies and helps them improve their readiness level.
  • The Ready When the Time Comes program trains employees from businesses so they can be used as a community-based volunteer force when disaster strikes.
  • Red Cross First Aid and CPR/AED training courses provide participants with the knowledge and skills to respond to emergencies in case advanced medical help is delayed.
  • People can visit for information on what to do before, during and after emergencies and disasters.


    “We can’t control Mother Nature,” said Paulsen, “but we can control what we do. And having a plan can make all the difference.”


  • Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 02:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Tuesday, August 07 2012

    1. Keep your home well-maintained on the outside.

    Burglars want an easy target. Stand on the street outside your house and ask yourself: Does my property look neglected, hidden, or uninhabited? A front door or walkway that’s obscured by shrubbery offers crooks the perfect cover they need while they break a door or window. To improve security, trim shrubs away from windows and widen front walks.

    2. Install motion detector lights.

    All sides of your house should be well-lit with motion-activated lighting, not just the front. Simple motion-activated floodlights cost less than $50 each, and installing them is an easy DIY job if the wiring is already in place.

    3. Store your valuables.

    Thieves want easy-to-grab electronics, cash, jewelry, and other valuables, though some are not above running down the street with your flat-screen TV. Most make a beeline for the master bedroom, because that’s where you’re likely to hide spare cash, jewelry, even guns. 

Tour each room and ask yourself: is there anything here that I can move to a safe deposit box? Installing a home safe ($150 to $500) that’s bolted to your basement slab is a good repository for items you don’t use on a daily basis.

    4. Secure your data.

    While you probably won’t be putting your home computer in a safe anytime soon, take steps to back up the personal information stored on it. Password protect your login screen, and always shut off your computer when not in use (you’ll save energy, too!) Don’t overlook irreplaceable items whose value may hard to quantify, like digital photos.

    5. Prepare ahead of time in case the worst happens.

    • Take a photo or video inventory of items of value in your home, and store the file online or in your home safe.
    • Check that you’re properly insured for theft. Note that high-ticket items in your home office, such as computers, professional camera equipment, or other business essentials, may require an additional rider or a separate policy.


    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Tuesday, July 31 2012
    Successful burglars have lots in common — home owners who unwittingly give invitations to robbery. Here’s how thieves thank you for your generosity.

    You come home to an open front door, a ransacked house, and missing valuables. How did a burglar know you’d be gone? How did they get in?

    Check out these 10 thank-you notes from your friendly neighborhood burglars, and their advice on how to stop lending them a helping hand.

    1. Thanks for the ladder!

    Call me a social climber if you will, but I did discover a ladder in your back yard. Thank you for leaving it where I could lean it against your home and easily reach a second-story window. I really love it when upper story openings aren’t wired to a home security system!

    So, if you want to keep me out, store your ladder in the basement or a locked garage. And call your security company to wire upper-story windows into your alarm system.

    Vertically yours,
    A rising star

    2. Loved your trash

    Can’t tell you how much fun I have driving around neighborhoods on trash day (especially after big gift holidays) when the empty boxes on the curb reveal what wonderful new toys you have. Your thoughtfulness made it possible for me to land a new laptop and a flat-screen television in one easy trip to your home!

    Next time, break down the boxes and conceal them in the recycling or trash bins.

    Happy shopping!
    Curbside Cruiser

    3. Dear Can’t-Get-Around-To-It

    Recently, I noticed you hadn’t trimmed trees and shrubs around your home, so I knew I’d have a wonderful place to hide while I worked to break into your home. I really can’t thank you enough for all the great new things I grabbed.

    Next time, trim back bushes and trees near windows and doors. Make sure entry points to your home are easily visible from the street — I much prefer to work in private! While you’re at it, install motion-sensor lighting. I’m scared of bright lights!

    The Tree Lover

    4. Su casa es mi casa!

    I was sincerely relieved to find your back door was a plain wood-panel door. I had no trouble kicking it in (my knees appreciate how easy that was!) Imagine how silly I felt when I discovered that your windows weren’t locked anyway.

    You may want to take a cue from your neighbor and install steel-wrapped exterior doors with deadbolts on all your entries. And be sure your windows are locked when you’re away.

    All the best,
    Buster Door

    5. Bad reflection on you

    You’d be surprised how many home owners position a mirror in their entry hall so I can see from a window if the alarm system is armed. (Yours wasn’t, but I’m guessing you know that by now!) Thanks for taking a lot of pressure off of me.

    A little free advice: Relocate the mirror so your alarm system isn’t visible if someone else would peer through a window.

    Mr. Peeper

    6. The telltale grass

    Wow, isn’t it amazing how fast the grass grows these days? I swung by now and then and noticed your lawn was uncut, newspapers were piling up on the front steps, and your shades were always closed. To me, that’s an open invitation.

    Next time, hire someone you trust to mow regularly, pick up around the doorstep, open and close various window shades, and turn different lights on and off (or put a few on timers). One more thing: Lock any car you leave in the driveway, or I can use your garage door opener to get in quickly.

    Your Trip Advisor

    7. Getting carried away

    Many thanks for putting your valuables into an easy-to-carry safe that I could carry right out your back door. (Nice jewelry, and thank you for the cash!)

    You may want to invest in a wall safe, which I rarely attempt to open. Or, rent a lock box at your bank.

    With appreciation,
    Mr. Safe and Not-So-Sound

    8. Dear BFF

    Thanks for alerting a professional acquaintance of mine via your social network that you were away for the week in Puerto Vallarta, having the time of your life. Me? I enjoyed a very relaxing visit to your home with no pressure of being caught.

    If only you had known that posting comments and photos of your trip on social networks is fine — but do that after you return so you won’t broadcast your absence!

    Cyber Savvy

    9. Tag, you’re it!

    Where are you? When you use popular geo-tracking apps, such as FourSquare and Glympse, I might know if you’re not home. Web sites such as help me keep track of your whereabouts.

    If you prefer that I not visit your home, be careful about geo-tagging. But, otherwise, thank you for the loot!

    — Just Tagging Along

    10. Thanks for the appointment

    Thanks for inviting me into your home to view the laptop you wanted to sell. I do apologize for the scare I gave you when I took it (and your purse).

    Did you know that some large U.S. cities are averaging one so-called “robbery by appointment” per day? If you want to sell high-ticket items to strangers, I suggest you arrange to meet at the parking lot of your local police station. I definitely won’t show up, and you’ll still have your valuables (and your purse!)

    Read more:
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Tuesday, July 03 2012
    Ahhhh! At the end of a busy day, who doesn’t look forward to the surge of well being that comes with closing the door behind you, finally able to relax now that the world is at bay. Whether living in apartments or homes, everyone deserves that feeling of safety and security. Yet, like most everything else, real security has to be earned.
    In the area of home security, we’ve come across both good and bad news. The good: the most recent FBI report shows that the number of burglaries is decreasing across the nation. The bad: burglaries are still responsible for 23% of property crimes, and total losses for those were estimated at more than $15,000,000,000. That’s billion. Fortunately, a few very simple actions can reduce the chances that any of our Evansvillehomes will become one of those statistics.
    Close and Lock Doors and Windows
    This may seem obvious, but the FBI reports that burglars don't use force in about a third of homes hit by burglaries. If a criminal can gain easy access through an open or unlocked window or door -- including the garage door -- his job becomes that much easier…and, from his point of view, that much safer (yes, burglars are safety-conscious!). Since most burglaries take place during the day, Evansville homes will be significantly more secure if their owners remember to check the windows and doors whenever they leave.
    Opt For Deadbolt Locks
    Most people don’t realize how flimsy most front door locks actually are. While no lock is impenetrable, deadbolts take longer to break. Since burglars look for the easiest way to enter homes, most will give up and find homes with more vulnerable locks. This seems a small detail, but thoughtful protection like this can be a selling point for Evansville homes whenever their owners decide to put them up for sale. 
    Install a Home Security System
    Whether a simple burglar alarm or a complex system with motion sensors, window and door sensors, surveillance cameras and even 24/7 off-site monitoring, burglars who find that they are expected know they will be risking arrest. It’s why statistics show that just having a security sign out front can help deter break-ins. The cost of security systems can be partially offset by a discount (usually 5% - 10%) from your home’s insurer.
    An important part of owning homes is protecting them -- and ‘the buck stops’ with you, the owner. I hope you will consider me a trusted resource forEvansville home maintenance and security-related referrals anytime! 
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Friday, June 08 2012
    It is better to send text messages than to call when natural disasters strike and networks get congested, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday, also urging people to add battery-powered cell phone chargers to their storm emergency kits.

    Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters that forecasts for a "normal" Atlantic hurricane season should not keep those in potentially affected areas from getting ready for storms that could make landfall.

    "There is no forecast yet that says where they are going to hit or not hit. So if you live along the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic, and as far inland as the folks in Vermont found out last year, you need to be prepared for this hurricane season," Fugate said at a White House news briefing.

    The U.S. government is working to extend its public alert warning system beyond radio and television to mobile networks, Fugate said, noting that most new and upgraded cell phones have the capacity to receive such emergency notices.

    Households without fixed-line phones should be ready to charge cell phones during power cuts, the FEMA administrator said, also calling on families to make alternative communication plans for when wireless networks are congested.

    "When there's a big crisis, don't try to call people on your phones - text message. It's a lot faster and gets through. Use social media to update people ... and also be prepared when power outages occur how you're going to keep your electronic devices charged," Fugate said. "Add to your evacuation kits your cell phone chargers."

    (Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Monday, May 14 2012
    Surviving a Deadly Twister, Twice in 65 Years!
    WOODWARD, Okla. — On April 9, 1947, Wilma Lake was alone in her apartment on Oak Avenue when a tornado swept through this rural town in the dark of night. She survived — crouching beneath a table — but many of her neighbors did not.
    For Ms. Lake, then a 23-year-old office assistant, life went on: she would soon become Mrs. Nelson, marrying Eldon Nelson, who was known as Bud, and raise three children at 3412 Robin Drive. In graceful cursive, the brass knocker on the front door read: The Nelsons.
    Early Sunday morning, shortly after midnight, Mrs. Nelson, now 87, was home alone again, on the city’s west side, in the house on Robin Drive, when an alert came over her weather radio warning of a tornado spotted a few miles outside town.
    Barefoot and in her pajamas, she stood inside a small closet in the master bedroom, trying to get her son’s dog, a tan-and-white cocker spaniel named Sugar, in with her. Sugar refused, so Mrs. Nelson shut the door.
    “It was so fast,” she said. “I hadn’t been in there anytime at all until it was like a bomb went off. I guess it was the roof blowing off.”
    As happened 65 years ago, Mrs. Nelson survived, uninjured, even though a piece of wallboard fell on her head. And this time, six of her neighbors died, in the deadliest of a series of tornadoes that left a trail of destruction throughout the central Plains late Saturday and early Sunday.
    The tornado that struck Woodward was nowhere near as powerful as the one in the 1947. But for the handful of men and women in this city of 15,000 who survived the earlier tornado, the devastation stirred painful memories.
    The great tornado remains part of the lore and history of the place — the mural on The Woodward News building has a swirling twister painted on it — but no one thought anything like that would happen again.
    On Monday afternoon, Mrs. Nelson went back to her house for the first time since the tornado struck, injuring more than two dozen people and demolishing 89 homes and 13 businesses as it cut a miles-long path through the city. Oklahoma officials raised the death toll to six from five. Three of the victims were identified on Tuesday as Frank Hobbie, 24, and his two daughters, Faith, 7, and Kelly, 4. Two others who died were Derrin Juul, 41, and his daughter Rose Marie, 10. A 63-year-old man also died in the Texas hospital to which he had been airlifted.
    For the most part, 3412 Robin Drive exists in name only. The tornado rendered it a kind of half home: roofless, with caved-in white brick walls and shattered glass. The closet in which Mrs. Nelson took shelter now has the equivalent of a sunroof. The winds were so strong that a shard of a roof shingle pierced a plastic bottle of hand soap next to the closet and stuck there, like a dart.
    Around the corner, a 10,000-square-foot store called Carpet Direct was ripped to shreds, with an upturned truck next to the wreckage.
    As she surveyed the ruins of the home she shared with her late husband and the rest of her family for 47 years, Mrs. Nelson said she was not sure what it all means — surviving two of the worst nighttime tornadoes in Oklahoma history.
    Mrs. Nelson, who turns 88 in July, stands 5-foot-2 and weighs 125 pounds, and her survival seemed to defy logic.
    “I think the Lord must have left me here for a purpose,” she said, chuckling.
    Relatives and neighbors — even the state insurance commissioner, John D. Doak — went to the house to greet Mrs. Nelson on Monday. As she sat in what remained of her living room, a friend arrived and gave her a hug.
    “I’m going to make it,” Mrs. Nelson told her, tears in her eyes. “I’m a toughie. I told them at the hospital I was a tough old coot.”
    Amid the destruction, the smallest things survived.
    For 28 years, Mrs. Nelson kept a white bowl labeled “Grandma’s Goodies” on top of the refrigerator, with candies for her grandchildren and other children in the neighborhood. After the tornado, there it sat, without a crack in it. The front door remained intact, too, the door knocker unscarred.
    Mrs. Nelson said only one thing went through her mind as the roof tore loose. “I was so worried about Sugar, and I just said, ‘Oh, God, take care of Sugar, take care of Sugar,’ ” she said.
    After the tornado hit, one of her grandsons, Shane Semmel, 38, was the first relative to arrive at the house. Mrs. Nelson was in an ambulance parked outside. “She wasn’t worried about her house or anything else,” Mr. Semmel said. “She was worried about that dog.”
    Mr. Semmel walked inside. Sugar was in the kitchen, covered in insulation. He knelt down and checked her.  She was fine. She had survived.
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Monday, March 05 2012
    Make a home emergency preparedness kit with all the essential supplies to aid you in case a disaster strikes your area.

    Putting together a home emergency preparedness kit you hope never to use may seem like a waste of time and money. But when disasters happen that are beyond your control, you can take charge of how you respond.

    Items for an emergency preparedness kit

    Store all items in an easy-to-carry bag or suitcase that’s readily accessible. Make sure everyone in the family knows where it is and what it contains. If you need to evacuate your home quickly, here are the essentials you’ll need for a basic “grab and go” kit:

    • Water: One gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation; double if you live in a very hot climate, have young kids, or are nursing. Bottled water is best, but you can also store tap water in food-grade containers or two-liter soda bottles that have been sanitized. Factor in your pet’s water needs, too.
    • Food: At least a three-day supply of non-perishables and a can opener. Pack protein, fruit, and vegetables, but make sure they’re in a form you actually like—it’s bad enough not to have access to fresh food without also having to subsist on nothing but canned tuna. Include treats like cereal bars, trail mix, and candy bars. Store food in pest-proof plastic or metal tubs and keep it in a cool, dry place.
    • Flashlights and extra batteries: Candles are not recommended because there are many house fires caused by candles left unattended.
    • First-aid supplies: Two pairs of sterile gloves, adhesive bandages and sterile dressings, soap or other cleanser, antibiotic towelettes and ointment, burn ointment, eye wash, thermometer, scissors, tweezers, petroleum jelly, aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, and stomach analgesics such as Tums or Pepto-Bismol, and a laxative.
    • Sanitation and hygiene supplies: Moist towelettes in sealed packets, paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, and plastic ties. You might also want travel-size shampoo, toothpaste/toothbrush, and deodorant.
    • Radio or TV: Keep a portable, battery- or crank-operated radio or television and extra batteries to remain connected in case the power goes out, as well as an extra cell phone charger. You can buy an emergency radio online from the Red Cross.
    • Helpful extras: Duct tape, dust masks, a signal whistle, toys for kids.
    • Cash: Have at least $100 in your kit.

    Tailor a emergency preparedness kit to your needs

    Along with the basics like food and water, it’s important to have what you need for your particular situation. You may not need extra blankets in southern California, but you do need escape ladders in case of wildfire. And you’ll want extra blankets to survive a winter power outage in Maine.

    Update your emergency preparedness kit regularly

    Replace all food and water approaching its expiration date. Replace batteries. You might pick a specific time each year to check, such as before hurricane season in the south or after Thanksgiving if you live in the north.

    Buy a pre-made kit

    As an alternative to making your own kit, you can buy a fully stocked kit from the American Red Cross. A kit with a three-day supply of essentials for one adult costs $50 to $70.

    Read more:
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Friday, March 02 2012
    You dropped and broke a CFL bulb. No need to call a Haz Mat team — just keep a cool head and follow these 8 tips.

    A broken compact fluorescent bulb isn’t cause for panic, but it is cause for concern. CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs typically contain a small amount of mercury, which can turn into dangerous mercury vapor if the bulb breaks.

    Cleaning up and disposing of a broken CFL properly is important, especially if you have young children, you’re pregnant, or the bulb breaks on a carpet.

    Don’t reach for the broom to sweep it up. That’ll disperse the mercury; your goal is to keep the mercury in one place and remove it.

    Follow these 8 steps to clean up and dispose of any CFL bulbs that break:

    Step 1: Contain the damage

    • Get people and pets out of the room.
    • Open the windows to let in fresh air.
    • Shut the door to the room and turn off your forced-air heat or AC to keep mercury vapors from traveling elsewhere in your home.
    • Avoid stepping on the broken glass or mercury powder as you leave the room.

    Step 2: Gather up cleaning supplies

    Stay out of the room for 5 to 15 minutes to give the mercury enough time to settle into little balls, but not long enough to disperse. Meanwhile, collect:

    • disposable rubber gloves
    • duct tape
    • a piece of stiff paper or thin cardboard
    • a few damp paper towels or baby wipes
    • a sealable container — a glass jar with a lid (best), a plastic jar with a lid (OK), or a zipper plastic bag (better than nothing)

    Step 3: Cleaning up your broken CFL

    • Put on the gloves and pick up the big pieces of broken glass.
    • Use the stiff cardboard to scoop up the smaller pieces.
    • Use the sticky side of the duct tape to pick up the smallest shards.
    • Wipe the area with your paper towels or baby wipes.
    • Put the broken CFL pieces, the cardboard, and the wipes in your container and seal it.

    Step 4: Double-check your work

    Look closely at the area where the CFL broke for any remaining powder, pieces of glass, or mercury balls. If you see any, repeat Step 3.

    You may vacuum the area, but use only the hose attachment and pay special attention to the disposal techniques in Step 5.

    Did your CFL break onto a carpet? If you have small children who crawl or play on the carpet, you may want to replace the area of carpet where the CFL bulb broke. A Maine Deparment of Environmental Protection Agency study says residule mercury left behind after you clean the carpet can be released as vapor when children play or sit on the carpet.

    You can avoid the problem entirely by using only LED or halogen bulbs in rooms where your kids play or sleep, and in your bedroom while you’re pregnant. Also, make sure you’re using CFLs appropriately to keep them from burning out too soon.

    Step 5: Take out the trash

    • Take the zipper bag or glass jar right out to the trash.
    • Toss out anything else the CFL broke on, such as bedding, fabrics, and clothing.

    If you vacuumed, take the whole vacuum outside before pulling the bag out of the machine. Seal the vacuum bag and put it in the trash. If you have a canister vacuum, empty the canister into your sealable container and wipe the inside of the canister clean. Put the cleaning rag into the container, too.

    Step 6: Clean yourself

    • If bits of glass or mercury got onto your shoes, use a towel or wipe to clean your shoes, then dispose of the wipe.
    • If mercury got onto your clothes, toss them out.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water.

    Step 7: Remove the debris from your property

    Your sealed waste container and contaminated trash need to go to a universal waste facility that handles all types of trash, including environmentally sensitive materials.

    Ask local government officials where to find one in your area.

    Step 8: Continue to air out the room

    Continue to air out the room and leave the HVAC system off several hours, or as long as that’s practical given the outdoor temperatures. If the CFL bulb broke on carpet, open the windows when you vacuum for the next few weeks in case vacuuming releases any mercury you didn’t already get out of the rug.

    Read more:
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Wednesday, November 09 2011
    In less than three minutes, a house fire can become uncontrollable. In 1975, house fires tended to not become uncontrollable until an average of 17 minutes, according to a report by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.

    Despite better smoke alarms, home fires are spreading faster nowadays, studies show, so why are blazes spreading quicker?

    Certain home furnishings may be one of the biggest culprits of home fires burning faster, some fire experts say. For example, upholstered furniture contains flammable polyurethane foam, which can potentially increase fire hazards. Also, fire experts note in an AOL Real Estate article, homes nowadays are constructed with more open floor plans and building materials, such as wallboard, that can contribute to faster spreading fires too.

    Source: “Hot Stat: Today’s Homes Burn Faster Than Ever,” AOL Real Estate News (Nov. 7, 2011)

    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Wednesday, August 10 2011

    Carbon monoxide (CO) in your home can be a quiet, deadly killer. You can’t see or smell it, but in high enough levels, it can kill someone in moments. CO is produced whenever any fuel is burned – oil, gas, wood, charcoal, etc…Typically, the amount released into your home environment from well-maintained and properly operating appliances, but still hundreds of people die every year from CO poisoning.

    Symptoms of CO poisoning:

    • dizziness
    • confusion
    • nausea
    • fainting

    If you suspect CO poisoning – get to fresh air, and get an emergency room quickly. Be sure to let the doctor know you suspect CO poisoning.

    Prevention is the best way to avoid CO Poisoning

    • Have your fuel burning appliances checked regularly
    • Don’t idle your car in your garage
    • Choose appliances that vent outside whenever possible
    • Follow all instructions on your fuel burning appliances
    • Install CO detectors
    • Don’t ignore any symptoms, especially if multiple members of the household experience them
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Thursday, January 20 2011
    GET WINTER-WISE: Prepare Your Home for Cold Weather
    December 22 is the first day of winter 2010/2011. In many parts of the country, cooler weather has already begun to set in. So before you curl up with a good book or head outdoors to enjoy the snow, take time to make sure your home is ready for cold weather so it can enjoy the winter as well.
    Inspect your heating system.
    Breathe easier this winter. Have an HVAC professional inspect your furnace and clean air ducts to remove dust. Then, make sure you have a good supply of furnace filters on hand and make a note to change them every month. Something as simple as changing a furnace filter can reduce heating costs by up to 5%. If you have hot-water radiators, bleed the valves.
    Replace old thermostats.
    Nearly 50% of the energy used in a typical American home is for heating and cooling. Think about replacing your thermostat with a programmable one, allowing you to keep your home a little cooler at night.
    Ready your chimney and fireplace.
    If you have a wood-burning fireplace that hasn't been cleaned recently, hire a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote. Chimneys should be capped or screened to keep birds or rodents from nesting there. Check your fireplace damper and make sure it still opens and closes properly. For brick chimneys, inspect the mortar and tuckpoint if needed.
    Go outside. Weatherize the exterior, doors and windows.
    Inspect the outside of your home. Look for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes and seal them. Weatherstrip around doors and gaps along the foundation helps to keep cold air out. Caulk around windows for the same reason. Switch out screens and storm windows in the fall, before it gets cold.
    Do you need more attic insulation?
    Although insulating or upgrading insulation can be a big step, it is relatively easy to add insulation to most attics. A poorly insulated attic can be a major source of heat loss.
    Up on the roof.
    Inspect your roof, gutters and downspouts. Replace roof shingles that are worn and check the flashing to make sure your roof is watertight. Clean leaves and debris from gutters and if you don't have them already, think about installing leaf guards. Clear downspouts with a hose.
    No more frozen pipes.
    You can prevent your plumbing from freezing with a few easy steps:
    • Drain and detach all garden hoses.
    • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
    • Drain air conditioner pipes. If your air conditioning system has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
    • Leave heat on while on vacation (at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit).
    When the Lights go out
    Prepare for power outages ahead of time:
    • Buy indoor candles and matches or a lighter.
    • Keep a flashlight and extra  batteries on each floor of your home.
    • Keep the phone numbers of utility companies near your phone or inside your phone book.
    • Buy a battery-operated radio.
    • Have extra bottled water and non-perishable foods on hand. Don't forget food for your pets.
    • Protect computer and sensitive electronic equipment with a battery backup and/or surge protector(s).
    • Keep blankets and a first-aid kid in a location that's easy to access and remember.
    • Prepare an evacuation plan for emergencies.
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 09:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Wednesday, January 19 2011

    Besides the annual inspection and sweep for your chimney, improve the function of your wood fireplace with responsible use. 

    Ready for the colder months? You will be if you follow these simple guidelines to keep your wood fireplace burning brightly—and safely.

    1. Only burn dry, cured wood—logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for eight to 12 months. Cover your log pile on top, but leave the sides open for air flow.

    Hardwoods such as hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash burn longest, though dry firewood is more important than the species. Less dense woods like spruce or white pine burn well if sufficiently dry, but you’ll need to add more wood to your fire more often, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).

    2. Burn firewood and only firewood! Crates, lumber, construction scraps, painted wood, or other treated wood releases chemicals into your home, compromising air quality. Log starters are fine for getting your wood fireplace going, but they burn very hot; generally only use one at a time.

    3. Close the damper when not using your wood fireplace to prevent warm indoor air—and the dollars you’re spending to heat it—from rushing up the chimney.

    4. Keep bifold glass doors open when burning a fire to allow heat to get into the room. On a factory-built, prefab wood fireplace with a circulating fan, keep doors closed to prevent unnecesary heat loss.

    5. Have a chimney cap installed to prevent objects, rain, and snow from falling into your chimney, and to reduce downdrafts. Caps have side vents so smoke escapes. A chimney sweep usually provides and can install a stainless steel cap, which is better than a galvanized metal one because it won’t rust. Caps cost $50 to $200.

    6. Replace a poorly sealing damper to prevent heat loss. A top-mounted damper that also functions as a rain cap provides a tighter closure than a traditional damper for your wood fireplace.

    7. Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in your house—near your wood fireplace as well as in bedroom areas.

    8. Get your chimney cleaned twice a year if you burn more than three cords of wood annually. A cord is 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, or the amount that would fill two full-size pickup trucks.

    9. To burn a fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats. Keep the damper of your wood fireplace completely open to increase draw in the early stages. Burn the fire hot, at least occasionally—with the damper all the way open to help prevent smoke from lingering in the fireplace and creosote from developing.

    Wendy Paris is a writer in New York currently living in a home with a very smoky fireplace that has set off the smoke detector more than once. After finishing this article, she decided to schedule a chimney sweep. She’s written for This Old House magazine, as well as for The New York Times and

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    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 02:56 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Friday, August 27 2010
    I found a great site for smoke detectors and other essential safety products for the deaf and hard of hearing. We take many things for granted and sometimes forget that there are friends and family members amongst us who have disabilities and need special help.
    Smoke, Fire, and CO Detectors for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    Smoke detectors save lives. We know you take your safety and the safety of your loved ones and friends very seriously. That's why we've taken the time to hand select a collection of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. From the popular Gentex smoke detector to the Kidde smoke alarm and beyond, make Products for the Deaf your first choice when safety matters. We're proud to offer products like the Gentex smoke alarm that features an alert alarm with strobe light. You can buy with confidence knowing that your smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector is time tested and hard working.
    Here is a link to the website:,-fire,-and-co-detectors
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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