Aluminum Electrical Wiring

Between approximately 1965 and 1973, single-strand aluminum wiring was sometimes substituted for copper branch-circuit wiring in residential electrical systemsAluminum and copper wiring, with each metal clearly identifiable by its color due to the sudden escalating price of copper. After a decade of use by homeowners and electricians, inherent weaknesses were discovered in the metal that lead to its disuse as a branch wiring material.
Although properly maintained aluminum wiring is acceptable, aluminum will generally become defective faster than copper due to certain qualities inherent in the metal. Neglected connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures containing aluminum wiring become increasingly dangerous over time. Poor connections cause wiring to overheat, creating a potential fire hazard.
In addition, the presence of single-strand aluminum wiring may interfere with a home’s insurance coverage. Home owners are advised to talk with their insurance agents about whether the presence of aluminum wiring in their home is a problem that requires changes to their policy language.
Facts and Figures
  • On April, 28, 1974, two people were killed in a house fire in Hampton Bays, New York. Fire officials determined that the fire was caused by a faulty aluminum wire connection at an outlet.
  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “Homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 [‘old technology’ aluminum wire] are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach “Fire Hazard Conditions” than is a home wired with copper.”
Aluminum as a Metal

Aluminum possesses certain qualities that, compared with copper, make it an undesirable material as an electrical conductor. These qualities all lead to loose connections, where fire hazards become likely. These qualities are as follows:

  • higher electrical resistance. Aluminum has a high resistance to electrical current flow, which means that, given the same amperage, aluminum conductors must be of a larger diameter than would be required by copper conductors.
  • less ductile. Aluminum will fatigue and break down more readily when subjected to bending and other forms of abuse than copper, which is more ductile. Fatigue will cause the wire to break down internally and will increasingly resist electrical current, leading to a buildup of excessive heat.
  • galvanic corrosion.  In the presence of moisture, aluminum will undergo galvanic corrosion when it comes into contact with certain dissimilar metals.
  • oxidation. Exposure to oxygen in the air causes deterioration to the outer surface of the wire. This process is called oxidation. Aluminum wire is more easily oxidized than copper wire, and the compound formed by this process – aluminum oxide – is less conductive than copper oxide. As time passes, oxidation can deteriorate connections and present a fire hazard.
  • greater malleability. Aluminum is soft and malleable, meaning it is highly sensitive to compression. After a screw has been over-tightened on aluminum wiring, for instance, the wire will continue to deform or “flow” even after the tightening has ceased. This deformation will create a loose connection and increase electrical resistance in that location.
  • greater thermal expansion and contraction. Even more than copper, aluminum expands and contracts with changes in temperature. Over time, this process will cause connections between the wire and the device to degrade. For this reason, aluminum wires should never be inserted into the “stab,” “bayonet” or “push-in” type terminations found on the back of many light switches and outlets.
  • excessive vibration. Electrical current vibrates as it passes through wiring. This vibration is more extreme in aluminum than it is in copper, and, as time passes, it can cause connections to loosen.

Identifying Aluminum Wiring

  • Aluminum wires are the color of aluminum and are easily discernible from copper and other metals.
  • Since the early 1970s, wiring-device binding terminals for use with aluminum wire have been marked CO/ALR, which stands for “copper/aluminum revised.”
  • Look for the word “aluminum” or the initials “AL” on the plastic wire jacket. Where wiring is visible, such as in the attic or electrical panel, inspectors can look for printed or embossed letters on the plastic wire jacket. Aluminum wire may have the word “aluminum,” or a specific brand name, such as “Kaiser Aluminum,” marked on the wire jacket. Where labels are hard to read, a light can be shined along the length of the wire.
  • When was the house built? Homes built or expanded between 1965 and 1973 are more likely to have aluminum wiring than houses built before or after those years.

Options for Correction

Aluminum wiring should be evaluated by a qualified electrician who is experienced in evaluating and correcting aluminum wiring problems. Not all licensed electricians are properly trained to deal with defective aluminum wiring. The CPSC recommends the following two methods for correction for aluminum wiring:

  • Rewire the home with copper wire. While this is the most effective method, rewiring is expensive and impractical, in most cases.
  • Use copalum crimps. The crimp connector repair consists of attaching a piece of copper wire to the existing aluminum wire branch circuit with a specially designed metal sleeve and powered crimping tool. This special connector can be properly installed only with the matching AMP tool. An insulating sleeve is placed around the crimp connector to complete the repair. Although effective, they are expensive (typically around $50 per outlet, switch or light fixture).

Although not recommended by the CPSC as methods of permanent repair for defective aluminum wiring, the following methods may be considered:

  • application of anti-oxidant paste. This method can be used for wires that are multi-stranded or wires that are too large to be effectively crimped.
  • pigtailing. This method involves attaching a short piece of copper wire to the aluminum wire with a twist-on connector. the copper wire is connected to the switch, wall outlet or other termination device. This method is only effective if the connections between the aluminum wires and the copper pigtails are extremely reliable. Pigtailing with some types of connectors, even though Underwriters Laboratories might presently list them for the application, can lead to increasing the hazard. Also, beware that pigtailing will increase the number of connections, all of which must be maintained. Aluminum Wiring Repair (AWR), Inc., of Aurora, Colorado, advises that pigtailing can be useful as a temporary repair or in isolated applications, such as the installation of a ceiling fan.
  • CO/ALR connections. According to the CPSC, these devices cannot be used for all parts of the wiring system, such as ceiling-mounted light fixtures or permanently wired appliances and, as such, CO/ALR connections cannot constitute a complete repair. Also, according to AWR, these connections often loosen over time.
  • alumiconn. Although AWR believes this method may be an effective temporary fix, they are wary that it has little history, and that they are larger than copper crimps and are often incorrectly applied.
  • Replace certain failure-prone types of devices and connections with others that are more compatible with aluminum wire.
  • Remove the ignitable materials from the vicinity of the connections.

In summary, aluminum wiring can be a fire hazard due to inherent qualities of the metal.

by Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard

Abrasive Blasting for Mold Remediation

 Mold in the Home

Health concerns related to the growth of mold in the home have been featured heavily in the news.  Problems ranging from itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing to serious allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and even the possibility of permanent lung damage can all be caused by mold, which can be found growing in the home, given the right conditions.

All that is needed for mold to grow is moisture, oxygen, a food source, and a surface to grow on.  Mold spores are commonly found naturally in the air.  If spores land on a wet or damp spot indoors and begin growing, they will lead to problems.

Molds produce allergens, irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins.  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).  Allergic reactions to mold are common.  They can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.

In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.

As more is understood about the health issues related to mold growth in interior environments, new methods for mold assessment and remediation are being put into practice.  Mold assessment and mold remediation are techniques used in occupational health.  Mold assessment is the process of identifying the location and extent of the mold hazard in a structure.

Mold remediation is the process of cleanup and/or removal of mold from an indoor environment.  Mold remediation is usually conducted by a company with experience in construction, demolition, cleaning, airborne-particle containment-control, and the use of special equipment to protect workers and building occupants from contaminated or irritating dust and organic debris.  A new method that is gaining traction in this area is abrasive blasting.

Abrasive Blasting

The first step in combating mold growth is not to allow for an environment that is conducive to its growth in the first place.  Controlling moisture and assuring that standing water from leaks or floods is eliminated are the most important places to start.  If mold growth has already begun, the mold must be removed completely, and any affected surfaces must be cleaned or repaired.

Traditional methods for remediation have been slow and tedious, often involving copious amounts of hand-scrubbing and sanding.  Abrasive blasting is a new technique that is proving to be less tedious and time-consuming, while maintaining a high level of effectiveness.

Abrasive blasting is a process for cleaning or finishing objects by using an air-blast or centrifugal wheel that throws abrasive particles against the surface of the work pieces. Sand, dry ice and corncobs are just some of the different types of media used in blasting.  For the purposes of mold remediation, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and dry ice are the media commonly used.

Benefits of Abrasive Blasting

Abrasive (or “media”) blasting provides some distinct advantages over traditional techniques of mold remediation.  In addition to eliminating much of the tedious labor involved in scrubbing and sanding by hand, abrasive blasting is extremely useful for cleaning irregular and hard-to-reach surfaces.

Surfaces that have cross-bracing or bridging can be cleaned more easily, as well as areas such as the bottom of a deck, where nails may be protruding.  Areas that are difficult to access, such as attics and crawlspaces, can also be cleaned more easily with abrasive blasting than by traditional methods.

The time saved is also an advantage, and the typical timeframe for completion of a mold remediation project can often be greatly reduced by utilizing abrasive blasting.

Soda-Blasting

Soda-blasting is a type of abrasive blasting that utilizes sodium bicarbonate as the medium propelled by compressed air.  One of the earliest and most widely publicized uses of soda-blasting was on the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.
In May of 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca to head up a private-sector effort for the project.  Fundraising began for the $87 million restoration under a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.  After extensive work that included the use of soda-blasting, the restored monument re-opened to the public on July 5, 1986, during Liberty Weekend, which celebrated the statue’s  centennial.

The baking soda used in soda-blasting is soft but angular, appearing knife-like under a microscope.  The crystals are manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities to ensure that the right size and shape are consistently produced.

Baking soda is water-soluble, with a pH near neutral. Baking-soda abrasive blasting effectively removes mold while minimizing damage to the underlying surface (i.e., wood, PVC, modern wiring, ductwork, etc.).  When using the proper equipment setup (correct nozzles, media regulators, hoses, etc.) and technique (proper air flow, pressure, angle of attack, etc.), the process allows for fast and efficient removal of mold, with a minimum of damage, waste and cleanup.  By using a soda blaster with the correct-size nozzle, the amount of baking soda used is minimized. Minimal baking soda means better visibility while working, and less cleanup afterward.

Dry-Ice Blasting

Dry ice is solidified carbon dioxide that, at -78.5° C and ambient pressure, changes directly into a gas as it absorbs heat.  Dry ice pellets are made by taking liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) from a pressurized storage tank and expanding it at ambient pressure to produce snow.  The snow is then compressed through a die to make hard pellets.  The pellets are readily available from most dry ice suppliers nationwide.  For dry-ice blasting, the standard size used is 1/8-inch, high-density dry ice pellets.

The dry-ice blasting process includes three phases, the first of which is energy transfer.  Energy transfer works when dry ice pellets are propelled out of the blasting gun at supersonic speed and impact the surface. The energy transfer helps to knock mold off the surface being cleaned, with little or no damage.

The freezing effect of the dry ice pellets hitting the mold creates the second phase, which is micro-thermal shock, caused by the dry ice’s temperature of -79º C, between the mold and the contaminated surface.  This phase isn’t as much a factor in the removal of mold as it is for removing resins, oils, waxes, food particles, and other contaminants and debris.  For these types of substances, the thermal shock causes cracking and delaminating of the contaminant, furthering the elimination process.

The final phase is gas pressure, which happens when the dry ice pellets explode on impact.  As the pellets warm, they convert to CO2 gas, generating a volume expansion of 400 to 800 times.  The rapid gas expansion underneath the mold forces it off the surface.

HEPA Vacuuming

A HEPA vacuum is a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (or HEPA) filter through which the contaminated air flows.  HEPA filters, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy’s standard adopted by most American industries, remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles that are as small as 0.3 micrometers (µm) in diameter.  HEPA vacuuming is necessary in conjunction with blasting for complete mold removal.

While abrasive blasting with either baking soda or dry ice is an effective technique, remediation will not be complete until HEPA filtering or vacuuming has been done.  Abrasive blasting removes mold from contaminated surfaces, but it also causes the mold spores to become airborne again.  The spores can cover the ground and the surfaces that have already been cleaned.  So, the mold spores need to be removed by HEPA filters.

Additionally, while some remediation companies claim that there will be no blasting media to remove after cleaning, especially with the dry-ice method, there will be at least a small amount of visible debris left by the blasting that must be removed before HEPA vacuuming can occur.  HEPA vacuuming removes all invisible contaminants from surfaces and the surrounding air.  When HEPA vacuuming is completed, samples at the previously contaminated areas should be re-tested to ensure that no mold or mold spores remain.

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward

Tree Dangers to the Home

Tree too close to house
Although trees are generally a desirable feature of home landscaping, they can pose a threat to buildings in a number of different ways. Home owners may want to educate themselves about tree dangers so that they can be aware of potentially dangerous situations.  Questions regarding home insurance claims can be answered by contacting me for a free consultation.
Tree Roots and Foundations
Contrary to popular belief tree roots do not normally pierce through a building’s foundation. They can, however, damage a foundation in the following ways:
  • Roots can sometimes penetrate a building’s foundation through pre-existing cracks.
  • Large root systems that extend beneath a house can cause foundation uplift.
  • Roots can leech water from the soil beneath foundations, causing the structures to settle and sink unevenly.

Other Dangers:

  • Trees that are too close to buildings may be fire hazards. Soffit vents provide easy access for flames to enter a house.
  • Leaves and broken branches can clog gutters, potentially causing ice dams or water penetration into the building.
  • Old, damaged or otherwise weak trees may fall and endanger lives and property. Large, weak branches, too, are a hazard, especially if weighed down by ice.
  • Tree roots can potentially penetrate underground drainage pipes, especially when they leak. Water that leaks from a drainage or sanitary pipe can encourage root growth in the direction of the leak, where the roots may eventually enter the pipe and obstruct its flow.
  • Trees may be used by insects and rodents to gain access to the building.
  • Falling trees and branches can topple power lines and communication lines.
Structural Defects in TreesDangerous Crack in tree .
Trees with structural defects likely to cause failure to all or part of a tree can damage nearby buildings. The following are indications that a tree has a structural defect:
  • dead twigs, dead branches, or small, off-color leaves;
  • species-specific defects. Some species of maple, ash and pear often form weak branch unions, while some other fast-growing species of maple, aspen, ailanthus and willow are weak-wooded and prone to breakage at a relatively young age;
  • cankers, which are localized areas on branches or stems of a tree where the bark is sunken or missing. Cankers are caused by wounding or disease. The presence of a canker increases the chance that the stem will break near the canker. A tree with a canker that encompasses more than half of the tree’s circumference may be hazardous even if the exposed wood appears healthy;
  • hollowed trunks;
  • Advanced decay (wood that is soft, punky or crumbly, or a cavity where the wood is missing) can create a serious hazard. Evidence of fungal activity, such as mushrooms, conks and brackets growing on root flares, stems or branches are indications of advanced decay. A tree usually decays from the inside out, eventually forming a cavity, but sound wood is also added to the outside of the tree as it grows. Trees with sound outer wood shells may be relatively safe, but this depends on the ratio of sound-to-decayed wood, and other defects that might be present;
  • cracks, which are deep splits through the bark, extending into the wood of the tree. Cracks are very dangerous because they indicate that the tree is presently failing;
  • V-shaped forks.  Elm, oak, maple, yellow poplar and willow are especially prone to breakage at weak forks;
  • The tree leans at more than 15 degrees from vertical. Generally, trees bent to this degree should be removed if they pose a danger. Trees that have grown in a leaning orientation are not as hazardous as trees that were originally straight but subsequently developed a lean due to wind or Canker in tree root damage. Large trees that have tipped in intense winds seldom recover. The general growth-form of the tree and any uplifted soil on the side of the tree opposite the lean provide clues as to when the lean developed.
Tips for Home Owners:
  • Binoculars are helpful for examining the higher portions of tall trees for damage.
  • When planting trees, they should be kept far from the house. It is impossible for the homeowner to reliably predict how far the roots will spread, and trees that are too close to a building may be a fire hazard.
  • Do not damage roots. In addition to providing nutrition for the tree, roots anchor the tree to the ground. Trees with damaged roots are more likely to lean and topple than trees with healthy roots. Vehicles are capable of damaging a tree’s root system.
  • Dead trees within the range of a house should be removed. If they are not removed, the small twigs will fall first, followed by the larger branches, and eventually the trunk. This process can take several years.
  • Inspect your trees periodically for hazards, especially in large, old trees. Every tree likely to have a problem should be inspected from bottom to top. Look for signs of decay and continue up the trunk toward the crown, noting anything that might indicate a potential hazard.
In summary, trees that are too close to buildings can potentially cause structural damage.
by Nick Gromicko and Rob London

Vermiculite

Vermiculite insulation
Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral composed of shiny flakes that resemble mica. When heated rapidly to a high temperature, this crystalline mineral expands into low-density, accordion-like strands. In this form, vermiculite is a lightweight, odorless and fire-resistant material that has been used in numerous applications, such as insulation for attics and walls.

Asbestos Contamination

Vermiculite forms over millions of years due to weathering of the mineral biotite. Unfortunately, biotite deposits are often in close proximity to deposits of diopside, which transform into asbestos due to the same weathering processes that create vermiculite. Asbestos can be easily inhaled because it tends to separate into microscopic particles that become airborne. Exposure to asbestos can result in lung cancer, mesothelioma, inflammation of the chest cavity, and a scarring disease of the lungs known as asbestosis. The risk of contracting these diseases generally increases with the duration and intensity of exposure to asbestos, and smokers may face an even greater risk of lung cancer.

The largest and oldest vermiculite mine in the United States was started in the 1920s near Libby, Montana. Although it was known that the vermiculite there was contaminated with tremolite, a highly toxic form of asbestos, the mine continued to operate until stiffer environmental controls finally forced it to close in 1990. Sadly, by this time, the damage had already been done; the asbestos-infused insulator had been installed in tens of millions of homes in the United States alone. As over 70% of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. from 1919 to 1990 originated from the Libby mine, it is safe to assume that all vermiculite insulation found in buildings is toxic.

IdentificationZonolite brand vermiculite is likely contaminated by asbestos

Vermiculite insulation is a pebble-like or rectangular, chunky product about the size of a pencil eraser, and usually gray-brown or silver-gold in color. Inspectors should be on guard for empty bags in the attic that bear the name Zonolite®, as this was the commercial name for vermiculite mined in the notorious Libby mine.

What should be done about asbestos found in homes?

Home owners should never disturb vermiculite or any asbestos insulation. These products must be airborne to cause a health risk through inhalation, which most likely happens when they are removed or handled. The following are some additional tips:

  • Consider that contractors may track vermiculite into the house if they have to enter the attic.
  • Dispose of waste and debris contaminated with asbestos in tight containers.
  • Do not allow children to play in an attic.
  • Do not launder clothing exposed to vermiculite with family clothing.
  • Do not overreact. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), asbestos-related illnesses are usually the result of high levels of exposure for long periods of time. Left undisturbed in the attic, asbestos is generally not a life-threatening situation. Furthermore, air generally flows into the attic from the house, and not the other way around.
  • Do not use the attic as a storage area.
  • Hire a professional asbestos contractor before remodeling or renovating if these processes may disturb the vermiculite.
  • Never use compressed air for cleaning around vermiculite. Avoid dry-sweeping, vacuuming, shoveling, or other dry clean-up methods. Wet methods are best.
  • Seal cracks and holes in attics, such as around light fixtures and ceiling fans, where insulation may pass through.
  • Use proper respiratory protection. Disposable respirators or dust masks are not appropriate for avoiding asbestos exposure.
In summary, vermiculite is a potentially hazardous mineral used as an insulator in buildings, but its dangers can be mitigated with some simple precautions.
by Nick Gromicko and Rob London

Anti-Scald Valves

Anti-scald valves, also known as tempering valves and mixing valves, mix cold water in with outgoing hot water so that the hot water that leaves a fixture is not hot enough to scald a person. Anti-scald valves are used to regulate water temperature in buildings

Facts and Figures

  • Scalds account for 20% of all burns.
  • More than 2,000 American children are scalded each year, mostly in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Scalding and other types of burns require costly and expensive hospital stays, often involving skin grafts and plastic surgery.
  • Scalding may lead to additional injuries, such as falls and heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
  • Water that is 160º F can cause scalding in 0.5 seconds.

Unwanted temperature fluctuations are an annoyance and a safety hazard. When a toilet is flushed, for instance, cold water flows into the toilet’s tank and lowers the pressure in the cold-water pipes. If someone is taking a shower, they will suddenly feel the water become hotter as less cold water is available to the shower valve. By the same principle, the shower water will become colder when someone in the house uses the hot-water faucet. This condition is exacerbated by plumbing that’s clogged, narrow, or installed in showers equipped with low-flow or multiple showerheads. A sudden burst of hot water can cause serious burns, particularly in young children, who have thinner skin than adults. Also, a startling thermal shock – hot or cold – may cause a person to fall in the shower as he or she scrambles on the slippery surface to adjust the water temperature. The elderly and physically challenged are at particular risk.

Anti-scald valves mitigate this danger by maintaining water temperature at a safe level, even as pressures fluctuate in water supply lines. They look similar to ordinary shower and tub valves and are equipped with a special diaphragm or piston mechanism that immediately balances the pressure of the hot- and cold-water inputs, limiting one or the other to keep the temperature within a range of several degrees. As a side effect, the use of an anti-scald valve increases the amount of available hot water, as it is drawn more slowly from the water heater. Inspectors and homeowners may want to check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to see if these safety measures are required in new construction in their area.

Installation of anti-scald valves is typically simple and inexpensive. Most models are installed in the hot-water line and require a cold-water feed. They also require a swing check valve on the cold-water feed line to prevent hot water from entering the cold-water system. They may be installed at the water heater to safeguard the plumbing for the whole building, or only at specific fixtures.

The actual temperature of the water that comes out of the fixture may be somewhat different than the target temperature set on the anti-scald valve. Such irregularities may be due to long, uninsulated plumbing lines or defects in the valve itself. Users may fine-tune the valve with a rotating mechanism that will allow the water to become hotter or colder, depending on which way it’s turned. Homeowners may contact a qualified plumber if they have further questions or concerns.

In summary, anti-scald valves are used to reduce water temperature fluctuations that may otherwise inconvenience or harm unsuspecting building occupants.

by Nick Gromicko and Rob London

Superstorm Sandy and Property Damage Insurance

As is often the case following such damaging events as the recent storms in the Northeastern section of the United States from yesterday, hundreds of thousands of home and business owners will awaken and begin to discover the realities of their insurance contracts … those conditions and exclusions that are written into their insurance polices that, like landmines, often impede their steps toward restoring that part of their lives that has to do with their property damage and loss.

Believe it or not, thousands of home owners with their houses under water brought in by the sea or overflowing river banks will only — today — discover that flooding is not a covered peril under their insurance policies.  With all or most of their personal property missing or destroyed, providing proof of their losses will appear to be impossible.

Because the burden is on the insured to “prove” his loss and most are not totally aware of their rights or the process of proving their insurance claims, many will accept lower settlements or denials that will unnecessarily add to the burdens that they already are forced to endure.

Some “storm chasing” public adjusters from all over the country will soon be descending upon the area to help people with their insurance claims to help home and business owners contend with the wave of adjusters sent by the insurance companies to protect their financial interests … and while many of them will actually be helpful, the shock and the awe of the recent disaster still hangs over its victims like a dark cloud and not all of their choices during this period will be, upon later reflection, “good” choices.

Prudent home and business owners throughout the country can benefit from this lesson and take the opportunity — today — to meet with a public adjuster close to their home.  Get to know him and discuss your insurance contracts with him.  Let him show you what they do and do not cover, what your immediate steps should be following a loss and how to protect yourself from actions that could nullify or reduce the amount of your claim.

Public adjusters do not work for insurance companies and can help you through the process of proving your claim  … even before it happens … so that you can concentrate on more important things that you will certainly face during a personal property disaster.

It is also important to note that, if you try to handle your claim on your own and are unsatisfied with the results, a local public adjuster can review your claim and reopen it to address a wrongful denial or underpayment.

Take the time, today, to find a local public adjuster who will be there for you when you need him the most.

Emergency Supply Kit for Severe Weather

Assemble the following items to create kits for use at home, the office, at school and in your vehicle:

  •  Water—1 gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation and 2 week supply for home)
  •  Food—a 3-day supply of non-perishable food for evacuation, 2-week supply for home
  •  Battery-powered or hand crank radio, and a “Public Alert Certified” NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries for both
  •  Items for infants—including formula, diapers, bottles, pacifiers, powdered milk and medications not requiring refrigeration
  •  Items for seniors, people with disabilities and anyone with medical needs—including special foods, denture items, extra eyeglasses, hearing aid batteries, prescription and non-prescription medications that are regularly used, inhalers and other essential equipment
  •  Kitchen accessories—a manual can opener, mess kits or disposable cups, plates and utensils, utility knife, sugar and salt, aluminum foil and plastic wrap, resealable plastic bags
  •  One complete change of clothing and footwear for each person— including sturdy work shoes or boots, raingear and other items adjusted for the season, such as hats and gloves, thermal underwear, sunglasses, dust masks
  •  Sanitation and hygiene items—shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, comb and brush, lip balm, sunscreen, contact lenses and supplies and any medications regularly used, toilet paper, towelettes, soap, hand sanitizer, liquid detergent, feminine supplies, plastic garbage bags (heavy-duty) and ties (for personal sanitation), medium-sized plastic bucket with tight lid, disinfectant, household chlorine bleach
  •  Other essential items—paper, pencil, needles, thread, medicine dropper, whistle, emergency preparedness manual
  •  Several flashlights and extra, fresh batteries
  • A first-aid kit
  • A copy of your home owner’s insurance policy
  • Contact information for a pre-selected, local and licensed Public Adjuster

This list was extracted and modified from the information provided at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/severeweather/resources/ttl6-10.pdf

Prepare for a Home Fire Emergency … Today!

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test your smoke alarms once a month and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Replace smoke alarms every 8-10 years or as the manufacturer guidelines recommend.
  • Plan your escape from fire. The best plans have two ways to get out of each room.
  • Practice fire escape plans several times a year. Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
  • Purchase only collapsible escape ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Check that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened.
  • Make sure everyone in your family understands and practices how to properly operate and open locked or barred doors and windows.
  • Consider installing residential fire sprinklers in your home.
  • Take the time to prepare (and, if possible, photograph or videotape) a complete inventory of all of your belongings.  Store this information with a friend or family member so that it is not lost in the fire.
  • Find and meet a local licensed Public Adjuster to have your home insurance policy reviewed in advance of an emergency and keep his phone number in an accessible place.

Contact your local fire department on a non-emergency phone number if you need help or have questions about fire safety in your home.

Yes … New Homes Burn Faster

Does it come as a surprise to anyone that many of those who would financially gain from re-building the home are spending heavily to lobby their state legislatures to fight laws that would prevent it from burning down?

If you are living in a recently built home or are contemplating buying one, you need to read this (click, here).

New homes are being constructed with lightweight and flammable material, and many that I have personally inspected include building flaws that increase the risk of fire.

One common example is the loose electrical wiring buried under the blown fiberglass insulation in brand new homes that is more of “the rule” than an exception to the rule in many unregulated parts of Missouri.  Another common flaw is the absence of arc fault circuit interrupters.

As stated in the linked article, above …

Designed to carry a greater load with less material, the prefabricated components are made from real or man-made wood fragments held together by glue or metal fasteners. The materials are commonly used to frame roofs and flooring. Assembled in factories and shipped to construction sites, these building components significantly cut down on construction time and cost. Builders also say the materials are better for the environment, because they use less wood, reducing deforestation.

But both real-life and test fires have shown that structures with lightweight construction burn much faster and collapse sooner than traditional solid-wood frame construction. That, firefighters say, makes fires harder to fight and shortens the time occupants have to escape a blaze.

“Not only is that second floor going to come down on your head in a very short period of time, the roof is going to collapse,” said Danny Hunt, fire marshal in Nashville, Tennessee, where he said roughly 90 percent of new homes use lightweight construction.

Caveat emptor.

Electrical Safety and Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Circuit Breakers

While most jurisdictions with electrical codes will allow them, the “stab-lok” circuit breakers have an extensive history of fire and other related electrical issues.

I find them in many of the older homes in Southwest Missouri (as well as in some newer additions where the builder recycled used electrical parts) and found them commonly used in many areas of St. Louis and St. Louis County, as well, when I did inspections there.

I strongly recommend to those utilizing these electrical service panels and breakers to (1) replace them, or at a minimum (2) install a smoke detector in the area of the panel.

The following was recently reported on a Kansas City television station:  http://kctv.membercenter.worldnow.com/story/19065927/kctv5-investigates-circuit-danger

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