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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

Rebuilding After a Disaster

Hurricanes, fires and other disasters can cause widespread devastation that threatens the safety of your family and home. But once a disaster passes, you aren’t necessarily out of danger. If your home is damaged, it may not offer sufficient protection for your family. Plus, assessing damage and the rebuilding process itself can be costly, even if your insurance policy helps to pay the bills.

Returning Home

Before you can rebuild or repair your home, you’ll have to complete detailed inspections to see the extent of the damage. However, you should also keep your immediate safety in mind at all times. Even if you’re eager to return home, there could be a number of hazards present after a disaster that aren’t easily visible.

Here are some tips for when you re-enter your home:

  • Don’t return to your neighborhood until it’s declared safe by local officials.
  • Inspect the outside of your home for cracks in the foundation and sagging in the roof.
  • Don’t enter your home if there’s a hazard present, such as damaged power lines, floodwater that’s above the basement or the smell of natural gas.
  • Walk through every room of your home with a friend or family member, and take note of any noticeable damage or lost property.
  • Don’t drink tap water until it’s been declared safe by local authorities.
  • Be aware that wildlife may have taken refuge in your home, especially after a flood. Use a shovel or other long tool to rummage through anything you can’t see, and never approach a wild animal directly.
  • Never force open a door that appears to be jammed. It’s possible that damage to your home has forced a door to support some of the building’s structure.
  • Refrain from using wired electronics until you know the electrical systems are working properly.

Cleaning and Repairs

Once you’ve determined that your home is safe, you many want to start cleaning or performing small repairs yourself. However, the precautions you take during the recovery process can change depending on the type of disaster that affected your area. Use the following best practices to identify potential hazards in your home and prepare yourself for the cleaning and rebuilding processes.

General Best Practices

  • Be aware of hazards that may be unique to your home. For example, older homes may contain lead paint, asbestos or other dangerous substances that can become exposed after a disaster.
  • Wear appropriate protective equipment. You should always wear gloves and goggles when cleaning chemical spills or working with household cleaners.
  • Read the manufacturers’ instructions on all cleaning products and devices before using them.
  • Never mix chemicals together, either when disposing of them or using them to clean.
  • Be aware of carbon monoxide hazards. Because the gas is difficult to detect and your home’s carbon monoxide detectors may not be working properly, it can be hard to detect a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide. Never use fuel-burning devices inside your home, including portable generators that run on gasoline.
  • Remove any standing water from your home as quickly as possible. Standing water can serve as a breeding ground for microorganisms and disease-carrying insects.
  • Check the outside of your home to see if wind or debris has damaged the roof, windows or siding. If the damage appears to be severe, consult a professional about making repairs.
  • Properly dispose of all waste materials and garbage, and never burn them.
  • Take pictures of your home before and after it’s repaired. These pictures may help when making insurance claims.
  • Make a record of any important documents that were damaged or destroyed, such as passports, birth certificates, Social Security numbers and insurance policies.
  • Keep the receipts for any purchases you make while cleaning or rebuilding.
  • Contact us at 831-661-5697 for help getting in touch with certified professionals and reviewing your homeowners policy.

Floods

  • Wear an N-95 respirator if mold is present. If standing water has been in your home for at least two days, it’s likely that mold has begun to grow.
  • Call a professional to help you clean if there’s a large amount of mold present.
  • Remove any standing water as quickly as possible. However, if your basement is flooded, you should only pump out about one-third of the water a day. If any more is pumped out, it could cause the walls to collapse or the floor to buckle.
  • Dispose of any food and containers that came into contact with floodwater, even if they appear to be airtight.
  • Clean and dry all hard surfaces in your home. If anything can’t be cleaned and dried, it should be thrown away.

Fires

  • Enter your home only after the fire department has said that it’s safe. Fires can cause severe damage to a building’s walls and floors, and they may not be structurally sound.
  • To protect against serious health risks, avoid contact with soot and dirty water left over after a fire.
  • Wear a mask while cleaning to prevent the inhalation of ash, soot and other residue.
  • Check to see if your utilities are in working order. The fire department usually turns off utilities when fighting a fire and will know if they’re safe to use. Never try to turn your utilities back on by yourself.
  • Use cleaning products that contain tri-sodium phosphate to help reduce the odor of smoke. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before you use one of these products.
  • Use a mild soap and warm water to remove stains from soot and smoke from hard surfaces. Make sure to rinse and completely dry all surfaces shortly afterward.
  • Talk to a professional about replacing drywall or insulation that’s been soaked by water from fire hoses.

Working with Contractors

Hiring a contractor to repair your home is a good way to make sure the job is done professionally. Unfortunately, disasters also attract scam artists who prey upon those affected by a disaster, and you need to remain skeptical when using contractors. Here are some best practices for working with a contractor:

  • Only use contractors who have a good referral from Scurich Insurance, family members or friends.
  • Check to see if complaints have been lodged against a contractor you’re considering by visiting www.usa.gov/state-consumer.
  • Be wary of contractors who encourage you to spend too much, offer “special deals” or ask for your credit card number before you’ve signed a contract.
  • Ask to see copies of contractors’ general liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies before you work with them.
  • Get a written price estimate that includes any spoken promises made by a contractor.
  • Take your time to review a contract before you sign it, and be sure to ask for explanations about any price variations you notice. It’s also a good idea to get an attorney to review a contract before it’s signed.
  • Never agree to pay a contractor upfront. A deposit of one-third the total price is standard.
  • Only pay contractors with a check or credit card, and pay the final amount only after the work is finished and has passed your review. Also, keep in mind that paying with a credit card may offer protection from your bank and the credit card company if the contractor makes an unauthorized purchase.

Recovery Resources

Recovering from a disaster of any type is an extremely stressful experience, and one where your family’s safety and financial future may be in doubt. Here are some resources you may be able to use to help provide for your family and rebuild your home:

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2 months ago · by · 0 comments

Disaster Donation Scams

Make Sure Your Donations Reach the Right Cause

The damage caused by Hurricane Harvey is prompting people to help in whatever ways they can. Unfortunately, there are dishonest people who prey upon people’s good intentions, creating fake charity campaigns to exploit victims and take advantage of those who want to help.

Disaster Donation Scams

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it’s important to do some research before donating. Use these tips to make sure your money reaches the right cause:

  • Never wire money to someone who claims to be a charity. Legitimate charities don’t ask for wire transfers.
  • Be cautious about bloggers and social media posts that provide charity suggestions.
  • Only donate through a charity’s official website, and never through emails.
  • Ensure that the charity explains on its website how your money will be used.
  • Be wary of charities that claim to give 100 percent of donations to victims. Well-structured organizations need to use some of their donations to cover administrative costs.
  • Never offer unnecessary personal information. However, it’s common for legitimate charities to ask for your mailing address.

Helpful Hints

Donors looking for a worthy charity can access an unbiased, objective list on a website called Charity Navigator. The site receives a Form 990 for all of its charities directly from the IRS, so it knows exactly how the charities spend their money and use their donations. It also rates charities based on their location, tax status, length of operation, accountability, transparency and public support.

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5 months ago · by · 0 comments

Home Safety Tips for You and Your Family

Home Maintenance for the Summer

Keeping up with seasonal repairs and upkeep not only shows pride of ownership, but can reduce the risk of costly and preventable home expenses. Prepare your home for the summer with the following considerations:

Home exterior

  • Check all window and door locks to make sure they are secure. Open and close them, and apply lubricant when they are hard to open.
  • Inspect your roof and gutters, clean out gutter debris and check shingle integrity.
  • Inspect your home’s foundation, sealing cracks and levelling yard depressions with compacted soil.
  • Check wooden structures, such as decks and steps, for rotting, loose wood or exposed nails.

Home interior

  • Hire a qualified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor to tune up your air conditioning unit.
  • Examine electrical outlets and cords for potential fire hazards, such as frayed wires.

Garage

  • Examine your garage door to ensure that it is in proper working order.
  • Declutter by reviewing the contents of your garage. Donate or dispose of items you no longer use or need.

Driveways and walkways

  • Inspect your pavement for cracks and holes, and remedy them. This can go a long way in preventing accidental slips, trips and falls.

Painting Safety Precautions

Summer is the perfect time to brush up on painting projects in your home. While paint can beautify a room, it can also be harmful to your health.

Stay safe while painting this summer with the following tips:

  • Test for lead with a lead-testing kit—especially if your home was built before 1978.
  • Wear a respirator, and open windows and doors to ventilate the room.
  • Wear protective gloves and clothing.
  • Cover all exposed outlets with painter’s tape.
  • Inspect your ladder’s integrity before use, if applicable. Make sure to always have at least three body parts in contact with the ladder at all times.
  • Store paint by replacing the lid firmly and storing the can upside down to block air entry.

ATV Safety

As warmer weather approaches, more people will be using all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for recreation. While riding an ATV is a fun activity, these vehicles can be extremely dangerous. In fact, every year, there are over 300 ATV-related deaths across the United States.

Here’s how to keep yourself and your family safe while operating an ATV:

  • Read the operator’s manual and attend ATV instruction classes before riding.
  • Wear gloves to reduce vibration pressure and to improve grip.
  • Wear boots to maintain balance and control, protect feet and legs from debris, and maintain sound footing.
  • Wear a long-sleeve shirt and pants to avoid burns and scratches.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for wildlife, pedestrians, other ATVs and hazards like rocks, branches and unstable surfaces.
  • Drive at safe speeds, taking weather conditions and the terrain into account.
  • Never carry additional passengers, or operate an ATV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Always ride the right size ATV by following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Reducing Choking Hazards for Small Children

Choking occurs when the brain goes without oxygen for more than four minutes, causing brain damage and death, and is the leading cause of death in infants and toddlers.

If you are the parent or guardian of a small child, it is your responsibility to protect your child from danger. Foods such as hot dogs, whole grapes, nuts, raisins, hard candies and popcorn can be potential choking hazards. Other choking hazards include household items such as latex balloons, coins, small toy parts and marbles.

Protect your child from choking with the following tips:

  • Mash foods so they can be chewed more easily.
  • Instruct children to chew food before swallowing it.
  • Make sure children sit upright while eating.
  • Always supervise your child during mealtime.
  • Do not give hard foods to children under the age of 4.
  • Avoid giving children toys with small parts, and keep small household items out of reach.

Make sure to also learn the Heimlich maneuver for infants, as the procedures for a choking infant are different from those of an adult. Learn the steps here.

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Scurich Insurance Services
Phone: (831) 661-5697
Fax: (831) 661-5741

Physical:
783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Suite7,
Aptos, Ca 95003-4700

Mailing:
PO Box 1170
Watsonville, CA 95077-1170

Contact details

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(831) 661-5697

Available 8:30am - 5:00pm