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December 2013 Archive for Farm Talk on the Front Porch

RSS By: Grinnell Mutual, AgWeb.com

You face risks as you cultivate crops and raise livestock. We’ll share tips, stories and recommendations to help you protect property and prevent costly losses on the farm. It's our Policy of Working Together®.

Be safe at home: use a smoke detector

Dec 30, 2013

Your home is a safe haven for your family. Or is it? Fire departments responded to 370,000 home structure fires in 2011. That’s one home fire being reported every 85 seconds (National Fire Protection Association). Be proactive. Follow these tips to keep your home and family fire proof.

Smoke detectors – Do you have one? Do the batteries work?

Properly installed and maintained smoke detectors led to an almost 50% decrease in fire deaths since the late 1970s. 

"Many homes may not have any smoke alarms, not enough smoke alarms, alarms that are too old, or alarms that are not working," says Alan Clark, Grinnell Mutual's assistant vice president of Special Investigations. Each year, the Special Investigation Unit conducts approximately 20 investigations involving fire fatalities throughout the Midwest. "We want residents to understand that working smoke alarms are needed in every home, on every level (including the basement), outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom. And, if a smoke alarm is 10 years old or older, it needs to be replaced.

"A widespread problem we see is that home owners disconnect or remove the battery rather than replacing it when their smoke detector starts chirping," says Clark.

It’s estimated that 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke alarms. Don’t be fooled. If the batteries don’t work, the smoke alarm doesn’t work. Check your batteries each month. Start today.

Fire safety plan

The fire alarm sounds. You may have as little as two minutes to escape. Save time by making, planning, and practicing a fire escape plan with your entire family. (Learn how to make a fire escape plan.) Remember, once you get out of a burning building, stay out and call the 911.

"People often don't understand how quickly fire spreads.  Escape plans make a difference.  When an emergency situation occurs, people's reactions to get out will be second nature if they’ve practiced their escape plan.  If not, they'll panic," explains Clark.  "It's no different than what your fire service does – they train so they know how to react in emergencies.  If a fire breaks out in your home, get out and stay out.  Then call the fire department from a safe location."

Home fire sprinklers

Your risk of dying in a home fire decreases by 80% when properly installed and maintained automatic fire sprinkler systems are present. A sprinkler system also protects your possessions, reducing the average property loss by 71% per fire. Fire sprinkler systems have been around for a century to protect commercial and industrial properties and public buildings. Invest in your home and the precious people inside with a home fire sprinkler system.

Grinnell Mutual tested the effectiveness of a home sprinkler system in a Grinnell Mutual Talks about Safety videocast.

For additional information and fire safety tips for you and your family, visit the Safety Talks section of Grinnell Mutual's website, http://www.grinnellmutual.com/.  

Enjoy the holidays, fire-free, with tips from Grinnell Mutual

Dec 23, 2013

As the holiday season approaches, homes will soon be glowing with decorations both inside and out, delicious foods will be baked, menorahs lit, and carefully wrapped packages will appear under Christmas trees. Though often forgotten, the season and its traditions pose an increased risk for fire hazards.

"In the 31 years that I have been conducting fire investigations, I have heard countless times, 'I always thought it would happen to someone else.' The truth is that fires can happen in your home, and there is a much greater chance that they will unless you review your home safety," said Kevin Dunkin, special investigations supervisor for Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company in Grinnell, Iowa.

Grinnell Mutual recommends following these safety tips so a holiday celebration doesn’t go from joy to disaster.

Check smoke alarms

Make sure that you have working smoke alarms, and that there is at least one on each level of your home. Test them, and don’t remove the battery to power a new toy or game "just for a little while." It is recommended that there be a smoke alarm outside and inside of every sleeping room. They can be mounted on the ceiling (12 inches away from the wall) or on a wall (four to 12 inches from the ceiling.)

Smoke alarms should be replaced if they are over 10 years old. Batteries need to be changed each year. An easy reminder is to change your clocks and your batteries at daylight savings time. Placing carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home is also recommended and may be required by your state or local statute. Carbon monoxide detectors are required by state statute in 25 states in the U.S. The number of states requiring these detectors increases annually. Learn what your state requires at http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/env-res/carbon-monoxide-detectors-state-statutes.aspx.

Take precautions with candles

Fire losses involving candles also increase at this time of the year. From small scented votive candles to large table centerpieces, candles in use too close to combustibles will start a fire. The simple act of opening or shutting a door can create enough air movement to knock over a candle or cause a decoration to come in contact with a lit candle. Curious pets and children should also be kept away from any open flame. 

Check the cords

Illuminated holiday decorations should be checked for damage to the cords or light sockets before using them. Even if they are new, they may have been damaged before you bought them. Plan your displays so that you keep use of extension cords to a minimum. Cords need to be checked for damage such as broken wires, cut insulation, or plug damage. Never use an indoor-rated cord outside because exposure to moisture and other elements can create a fire or shock hazard.

Consider using UL Listed portable ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices to prevent potential electric shock near exterior holiday displays where snow or moisture may be present within or near electrical connections. These relatively low cost safety devices can be found at most home improvement stores, hardware or electrical equipment supply stores or online by entering "portable GFCI cords" in your internet search engine. To improve fire and personal safety, confirm that all electrical cords, timers, GFCIs, etc., used in holiday displays are UL Listed.

Keep house numbers visible

When decorating outside, do not cover the house number or disable the porch light. Emergency personnel need to find your house easily if there is a fire.

Make a fire escape plan

The reality is that fires happen. Sit down with your family and decide on a fire escape route with two ways out of your home and a meeting place nearby.

"Don't be 'that someone else.'  Just a few moments of your time can help ensure that your family, friends, and guests are kept safe in your home during the holidays and all year round," said Dunkin.

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