Keeping Safe During the Holidays

It’s that time of year again – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Years Day. The holidays are here! It’s a joyous time when family and friends gather.

It’s also the most dangerous time of the year. There are more fires and accidents than any other season.

Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe during the holidays at home or on the road:

At Home

Christmas tree – If you’re having a real tree, make sure it is fresh and not dried out. Keep it away from all heat sources (radiators and vents) and open flames (candles and fireplaces). Replenish water in the tree stand.

Holiday lights/electrical cords – Check all light strings and extension cords. Make sure they are not broken or frayed. Do not connect more than three strings of lights together. Do not overload outlets. Use UL (Underwriters Laboratory) approved power strips with surge protectors. Never run wires under rugs.

Pet Safety – Keep live plants such as poinsettias away from pets. If consumed, these plants can be deadly to your dog or cat. Also, keep small decorations that can pose choking hazards out of their reach.

Deliveries – If you’re going away or not home during the day, have a neighbor or a family member get your packages that are delivered to your front door. In recent years, there’s been a surge in delivered packages being stolen from front steps.

On the Road

No Social Media – Do not post your travel plans on social media. An empty house is a magnet for holiday thieves.

Buckle Up – Make sure you and all your passengers have seat belts fastened before heading out in your vehicle. Check children’s car seats that they are properly secured.

Don’t Rush – Leave plenty of time for traveling to destinations. Obey speed limits and traffic laws. Slow-down in stormy weather. You’ll have plenty of company on the roads, so patience is a must.

Have a Happy and Safe holiday!

 

 

Thanksgiving Safety Tips for You and Your Pets

Thanksgiving is one of the most enjoyable family holidays of the year. Sadly, it is also one of the most dangerous for both people and pets.

The chances of house fires and risks to pets’ health are high on Thanksgiving. Unattended cooking can spark a fire while sharing your feast with your pet can be dangerous.

House fire risk

First, let’s look at the risk of house fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more home cooking fires reported on Thanksgiving than Christmas or any other holiday. In 2015, fire departments responded to more than 1,700 home cooking fires in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day.

Here are some tips from the NFPA to keep you and your guests safe on Thanksgiving:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children alone in room with a lit candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

Pet safety

Now, for our furry friends. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns pet owners to avoid the temptation to feed dogs and cats turkey and desserts.

Animals that consume turkey or turkey skin can develop a life-threatening illness, pancreatitis, due to their inability to properly digest fatty foods. Onions, raisons, and grapes can be poisonous to animals.

Chocolate and the artificial sweetener, xylitol, can be deadly to cats and dogs. Also, keep decorative plants away from your pets as many contain toxins.

Follow these safety tips for a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

Home Improvement Investment Returns

Which home improvements yield the greatest return on your investment?

Surprisingly, only home insulation returns more than 100% of your cost. Other improvements return less than your amount spent. Yet, they help attract buyers and get your home sold faster.

Here are some examples of what you can expect to get back on your home improvement project.

Attic Insulation

Project cost, $1,268. Resale value $1,482. Cost recoup is 116.9%.

Entry-Door Replacement

Project cost, $1,335. Resale value $1,217. Cost recoup is 91.1%.

Garage Door Replacement

Project cost, $1,512. Resale value 1,512. Cost recoup is 91.5%.

Major Kitchen Remodel

Project cost, $59,998. Resale value $38,938. Cost recoup is 64.9%.

Minor Kitchen Remodel

Project Cost, $20,122. Resale value $16,716. Cost recoup is 83.1%.

Roof Replacement

Project cost, $20,122. Resale value $14,446. Cost recoup is 71.7%.

Siding Replacement

Project cost, $20,142. Resale value $10,857. Cost recoup is 77%.

Bathroom Remodel

Project cost, $17,908. Resale value $11,769. Cost recoup is 65.7%.

As you can see, upgrading your home adds value, and, if you’re selling it, will draw buyers.

This article provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realty.

Protect Your Home from Water Damage

Water damage is one of a homeowner’s greatest worries since it can result in mold and expensive repairs. The following tips can help you prevent potential sources of seepage in your home.

  1. Don’t plant next to your house.

 A flower or shrub border is lovely, and some folks like thorny bushes beneath their windows as a deterrent to break-ins, but watering those plants could damage your foundation. It’s wiser to keep your flower beds a few feet away from the house or make sure they slope away from it.

  1. Gutters and downspouts

Use gutters and downspouts to divert rain runoff away from your foundation. If you notice water pooling near the foundation after a rain, that area needs gutters. Also, make sure you have sufficient gutters for your entire roof. Extend downspouts away from the house and, if possible, discharge underground with a PVC pipe to drain into the street.

  1. Check Your Roof

Check your roof regularly for loose shingles – especially after high wind or rainstorms. Inspect metal flashing for damage and make sure skylights are properly sealed. Check your attic for wet spots or any signs of mold, condensation, damage to insulation, or a rodent or insect infestation that could lead to weak areas and subsequent leaks.

Simple tips like these can create a happier, healthier and more valuable home.

This article provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realty.

Fourth of July Safety Tips

Fireworks, the beach and family outings are the highlights of the July 4th holiday. While the day is fun-filled, it also has its share of dangers. Here are some tips from the National Safety Council to keep your Fourth of July safe.

Fireworks 

Sparklers, firecrackers, Roman candles, cherry bombs and bottle rockets are illegal in many states, including Massachusetts. And, for good reason. The National Safety Council reports that two years ago, four people were killed and more than 11,000 injuries occurred due to amateurs using fireworks.

Also, there are more reported fires on July 4 than any other day of the year. Two of every five reported fires are due to fireworks. According to the National Fire Association, an average of 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires are attributed every year to fireworks.

Check out the dangers of these popular Fourth of July fireworks:

Sparklers – There burn at nearly 2,000 degrees, enough to melt many metals. Many children have received severe burns from what most people believe are an innocuous Fourth of July celebration staple.

Bottle Rockets – These are small rockets, attached to a stick, lit by a fuse and fired from a rocket. Children have received serious eye, head and chest injuries from these devices.

Firecrackers – Some are linked together to explode as a series. Users have sustained burns and other injuries.

M-80s (Cherry Bomb) – The explosion from these M-Class devices can rattle windows for blocks and have caused serious injuries from premature detonation.

Roman Candles – Tubes eject multiple exploding shells. They have known to jam and have caused lost fingers and serious burns.

Leave fireworks to the professionals. Go to a local fireworks show where they can be enjoyed in a safe environment.

On the Road

July 4th is one of the busiest days on the roads. It is also one of the most dangerous. The National Safety Council is estimating that more than 160 deaths and well over 18,000 injuries will occur.

If you’re hitting road:

  • Drive defensively
  • Avoid distractions
  • Be patient
  • Buckle up
  • Stay engaged with your teen drivers
  • Be well rested to avoid fatigue
  • Have a designated, sober driver

Keep Safe

Following these tips will keep you and your family safe on the Fourth of July. Enjoy! And, Happy Birthday, America!

Seven Signs Your Contractor May be Shady

Building a home or renovating your existing pad is no simple task. From budgeting to design and choosing the right contractor, there’s a myriad of details you’ll need to juggle. But when it comes to choosing the right contractor for the job, it’s important to be mindful that not every contractor is reputable. Here are seven ways you can spot a shady one.

  1. They pressure you. Whether they’re pushy with contracts or material, if they’re using pressure to sway you, be cautious.
  2. They only accept cash. This is a huge red flag. Reputable contractors will take checks and potentially even credit cards for their payments.
  3. They want it all up front. Most remodelers typically require a down payment of 25-50 percent of the contract price for small jobs and 10-33 percent for large jobs. If they demand full payment up front, be wary: they may never finish the job.
  4. They have no references. No matter what, never hire a contractor without verifying at least three separate references.
  5. They suggest a lender. If the contractor suggests that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, you could be the target of a home improvement loan scam.
  6. The contractor fails to listen. A contractor should want to meet your specific needs. If they seem unable or unwilling to listen to your wants, if they talk over you or in any way seem disrespectful, they may be unreputable at worst, or at best, difficult to work with.
  7. No right of rescission. A solid contractor will let you know that you have the right to cancel your contract within three days of signing; this “right of rescission” is required by law and allows you to change your mind without penalty if the contract was provided at a place other than the contractor’s place of business or an appropriate trade premise.

This article was provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realty

Are You Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions?

It’s three months into the New Year – are you sticking to your New Year’s resolutions? Did you know that only 20% of people actually carry them out?

If you’re having trouble sticking to your New Year’s resolutions, read this:

Choose one new goal, one new habit, one task. Only one. Don’t pick two. Did you know that your likelihood of success at changing one behavior is 80%?

But, did you also know that your likelihood of success drops to 55% when you try to change two behaviors? And, at three behaviors, a measly 5%.

So, if you’re having trouble changing your entire diet and exercise regimen, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Try changing only one thing at a time. Start taking a multivitamin, eating a vegetable at dinner, or drinking a glass of water when you wake up. Do this one thing every day for a month.

Buy a small notebook and keep track of your success. Even when this thing becomes too easy, stick with it. Do not add another habit.

Over the course of 12 months, you will have easily accumulated 12 new habits.

Maybe you can drink more water throughout the day or pick up those old dumbbells downstairs and start working out after work at night.

If you haven’t picked one yet, don’t worry – that’s okay.

Just start small. Don’t try to change your entire lifestyle in one week.

Your resolution needs to be comprised of process-oriented goals. Process-oriented goals are based on things you can do, not things you’ll become.

For instance, instead of saying you’ll lose “X” amount of weight by “Y” date, choose to eat a certain way, go to the gym a certain number of times, and get a certain amount of sleep. Essentially we’re trying to control the input, not the output.

Here are a few more suggestions for things to tackle over the next month. Remember, just pick one.

  • Start tracking your steps – add 1,000 steps each day.
  • Drink 32 extra ounces of water each day. That’s approximately two Poland Springs’ bottles.
  • Eat a fruit or vegetable at one meal if you don’t currently eat a fruit or vegetable. Just one.
  • Reduce your caffeine consumption by one drink each day.
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption by one day each week.
  • Pick a regular bedtime hour and stick to it. Make it 30 minutes earlier than usual.

Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions. It’s never too late to get started!

This article was contributed by Josh Mavilia Fitness of South Weymouth.

 

 

Preventing Pipes from Freezing

Winter’s bitter cold is more than an inconvenience – it can be damaging. An extended period of below freezing temperatures can freeze water pipes in your home. A frozen pipe can burst, causing thousands of dollars in damage. Preventing pipes from freezing can save you from a disaster.

Why Pipes Burst

According to the Family Handyman, when water freezes, its volume expands by about 9%. It expands with tremendous force – the pressure inside a pipe can go from 40 pounds per square inch to 40,000. Imagine, water expanding by that much inside a small, copper pipe. The force is just too great for any pipe to withstand.

Symptoms of a Frozen Pipe

Typically, pipes in the basement, crawl space or those that run in exterior walls are prone to freezing. The first sign that a pipe may be freezing up is a reduced flow out of the faucet. If the weather has been very cold for a few or more days and the water just trickles from the faucet, you need to take action.

Action Steps

Here are some steps you can take as recommended by the Family Handyman:

  • Turn up the heat in your home
  • Set up fans to blow heat in cold rooms
  • Open cabinet or vanity doors so warm air can reach the pipes under sinks
  • If you have exposed pipes in closest or pantries, leave doors open

Frozen Pipe Solutions

If the pipes are completely frozen and no water is coming out, use a hair dryer to thaw the pipe. Leave the faucet completely open as you attempt to thaw the pipe so the water can flow. Do not use a blow torch or any type of flame. The safest bet is to call a licensed plumber.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

  1. During a cold snap, let the water trickle or drip from faucets. A constant flow helps prevent freezing.
  2. Insulate crawl spaces, basements and walls where the pipes are located.
  3. Replace outdoor faucets with frost-proof models.
  4. Wrap an electric heating cable around vulnerable pipes. A thermostat will switch on when the temperature reaches a certain degree.
  5. Keep cabinet and vanity doors open under sinks to allow heat from the home help warm the pipes.
  6. Seal cracks and holes around pipes to prevent cold air from getting in.

Should a pipe burst and cause flood damage in your home, your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the cost of repairs up to the limits of your policy.

If you would like to be sure you have correct coverages, call me to schedule a free insurance review!

So What About The Law [Radio Broadcast December 2017]

“So what about that law?” Radio Show

Sunday 10:30 AM WATD 95.9 FM

Lois Drukman, my insurance broker, and the show’s Health, Auto and Home Insurance expert co hosted. We discussed the law as it relates to insurance.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

 

If you are in need of an insurance agent or are looking to find out what your insurance options are for your home, auto, health or business please contact me.

Lois Drukman
Independent Insurance Broker
Walter J. May Insurance Agency Inc., Hingham, MA
Direct: 781-740-5421 Cell: 617-827-6848
Email: ldrukman@waltermayinsurance.com

Christmas Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Christmas is an ancient celebration with centuries of tradition. Many of the things that make up the Christmas holiday as we know it have some surprising origins.

  1. Christmas wasn’t always on Dec. 25 – Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but, Dec. 25, the date that is celebrated as his birthday, is not mentioned in the biblical accounts. Many historians believed Jesus was actually born in the spring. It is believed the Dec. 25 date was chosen to coincide with the Pagan festival of Saturnalia, name after the agricultural god, Saturn. The festival involved partying and gift-giving.
  2. Thank Prince Albert for the Christmas tree – The Christmas tree originated from the Saturnalia festival, where evergreen branches served as a reminder f spring during the winter solstice. The Germans are credited with being the first to bring evergreen trees into their homes and decorating them. This tradition came to the United States in the 1930s. It really took off around the world when Germany’s Prince Albert and his wife, Queen Victoria of England, were featured in a sketch standing in front of a Christmas tree in 1848.
  3. Santa’s red suit – Folklore has it that Santa’s red suit was the result of a Coca Cola advertising campaign. Although Santa did appear in suits of various colors over the centuries including green, white, blue and, yes, red, the red suit became his staple after a 1931 Coca Cola ad. Illustrator Haddon Sundblom painted Santa in a red suit for the soft drink company’s Christmas promotion. Santa has since been seen wearing a red suit.
  4. Reginald the blued-nosed reindeer? – “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was the brainchild of Robert May for Montgomery Ward’s Christmas coloring book. May originally was going to name the reindeer Reginald or Rollo. At first, the red nose made Montgomery Ward nervous since a red nose is associated with an alcoholic. But, it all came together as the classic we know today.
  5. Christmastime injuries – At least 15,000 people visit the hospital as a result of holiday-related injuries. Here are a few safety tips to keep your Christmas merry:
  • Check the condition of holiday lights for frayed or broken wires and make sure they are UL, CSA or ELT certified
  • Do not overload electrical outlets or run wires under rugs
  • Always turn off holiday lights when leaving your home
  • Do not connect more than one extension cord together
  • Check your smoke and CO detectors and make sure they are installed on every level of your home

Have a happy holiday and keep it safe!