Protect Your Family and Yourself from the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

cat and dog by the fireplace

Autumn is almost here and that means it’s time to check your fireplaces to make sure they are safe for this winter. One of the biggest dangers of in-home fireplaces is the risk of carbon monoxide leaks. Be sure to have a professional check your fireplace for safety and learn more here about the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. However, protecting yourself and your family from its dangers is easy, if you take a few precautions and follow some simple safety rules.

The following information about carbon monoxide comes from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

About Carbon Monoxide

You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide.

At high levels, carbon monoxide can be deadly.

CO is produced whenever a fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. If the appliance producing the CO is maintained, it is generally harmless. However, if appliances are not maintained or not used correctly, the gas is hazardous.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

At moderate levels: severe headaches, dizziness, mental confusion, nausea or faintness.

At low levels: shortness of breath, mild nausea, mild headaches. These low level symptoms may have long-term effects on your health.

If You Think You May Have CO Poisoning

Get to fresh air immediately.

Go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Have your fuel-burning appliances, including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, and wood stoves, inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season.

Make sure flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition and not blocked.

Choose appliances that vent to the outside when possible. Ensure they are installed correctly and maintained.

Read and follow all instructions that accompany fuel-burning devices. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the device. Use proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open and crack windows to ensure ventilation.

DO NOT idle your car in the garage, even if the garage door is open. Fumes can build up quickly in the garage and home.

DO NOT use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.

DO NOT ever use a charcoal grill indoors, even in the fireplace.

Purchasing Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Before purchasing a CO detector it is important to note that they are not a replacement for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. According to the EPA, they are still being developed and not considered as reliable as smoke detectors. Do not let your CO detector lull you into a false sense of security and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for its placement, use and maintenance. Do some research before buying a CO detector. Read more at Protect Yourself and Your Family with a CO Detector.

Learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning and keeping your family and yourself safe.

Protect Your Family, Yourself and Your Home from Would-Be Burglars

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Do the commercials on TV keep you up at night because you know you can’t always be at your phone and ready to tell them to get off your porch? You can’t be at your computer or on your phone all day every day telling burglars to go away. You can take some steps to make your home less inviting for a would-be burglar. Check out some home safety tips! 

Pretend you are a burglar. Case your own home. Walk around and look at your home like a burglar would. Are windows frequently left open and on the ground level? Is there a sliding glass door that could stand a little extra protection? Are expensive items easy to see from the outside? A few simple adjustments like moving a computer and closing windows may make your house less tempting.

Lock your doors. Although we know we need to lock our doors when we go out, a lot of times we simply don’t. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 40 percent of burglaries don’t include forced entry. Thieves literally are just walking in and taking what they want. A locked door is a deterrent.

Don’t label your keys or mailbox. If your key chain has your name on it and you lose your keys, it won’t take long for a thief to get your address and walk in. In addition, putting your name on your mailbox helps a thief find out information about you and track your moves. He’ll know when you’re not home.

And don’t hide a key. A thief knows where to look for hidden keys. Leave a key with a neighbor, but don’t leave one under a mat, in a light fixture or in a flower pot.

Create the illusion of being home. Leave on lights, the radio or television. If you are going on vacation, use light timers and have someone pick up your mail, newspapers, flyers and packages. Have someone mow your lawn in the summer and shovel your walkways and driveway in the winter. An un-shoveled driveway with no tire tracks is an obvious sign that no one is home.

Get to know your neighbors. It’s nice if someone nearby notices if something unusual is happening. You can also tell your neighbors when you’re going to be gone so they can watch for unusual activity. And studies show that neighborhood crime watches do deter against criminal activity. If there’s not one in your neighborhood, start one.

Don’t be a target for a home invasion. Taking steps to protect yourself and even your neighbors is easy. Better safe than sorry. Get more tips here

Sleep Better at Night by Creating a Home Safety Plan

little girl sleeping

Do you have a home safety plan for your family? A lot of us don’t! If you have a home and you have a family, you need to have a plan in place for emergencies. It’s also important to practice your plan by running through it every couple of months until everyone knows it perfectly. Some people think this will scare kids, but it will become second nature to them and if a real emergency strikes, it’s not as scary! You’ll sleep better at night knowing you and your family are safe.

Your plan should include:

Two Safe Meeting Places Inside Your Home
One is your primary meeting spot; the other is your alternative. Choose places without windows and closest to the ground – a basement bathroom or interior first floor bathroom are often your safest places.

Two Safe Meeting Places Outside Your Home
Your outdoor meeting area is your go-to place in case of a fire or any emergency that means you need to leave the house. Choose two places in case one is unreachable – a neighbor’s house, the end of the driveway, your mailboxes.

Practice finding these places with your kids and getting to different meeting places from different rooms in your home.

In addition:

Teach Young Kids to Dial 9-1-1
All kids should be able to dial 9-1-1 on the phone. But they should also know the right times to use this number and when not to use this number. Teach them your address, too. If they get separated from you for any reason, you’ll want them to know this.

Teach Kids about Safety Equipment
A fire extinguisher and safety ladder are musts in many homes. Make sure kids know how and when to use these but have an even firmer understanding of when not to touch them.

Know How You’ll Use Social Media, Texting or Other Tools to Contact One Another
Social media can be used to contact family and friends when you need to get a message to someone. Make sure your kids and you consider this as a communications option if needed. You can reach multiple people with one post.

Gather and Safely Store Important Information
Invest in a fire proof safe and store valuable papers – insurance policies, passports, birth certificates, financial record, etc. in this. Hopefully you’ll never need it!

No one likes to prepare for emergencies because we don’t like to think about them. But in the end, the sense of safety and security you have knowing you’re ready for anything will let you and your family sleep better at night.

Is it Time to Remove Your Private Mortgage Insurance?

The concept of home ownership and 50 dollars

If you’re paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), or if you don’t know if you are, now may be a good time for a mortgage review. 

What is mortgage insurance?
Mortgage insurance protects the lender for losses on a defaulted loan, when the borrower puts less than 20% of the sales price as down payment. The policy supports people with a home purchase by letting them utilize loan programs allowing less than 20% of the sales price, but also adds a cost to the loan.

Does my loan have mortgage insurance included in it?
If you put less than 20% down on the purchase of your loan or refinanced with less than 20% equity in the home, you likely have mortgage insurance. Different loan programs have their own mortgage insurance and their own rules that dictate when or if the mortgage insurance can be dropped.

Government programs such as FHA and VA have their own programs for insuring loans. Conventional loans utilize private mortgage insurance.

Can I remove my mortgage insurance?
Whether you can remove mortgage insurance or when it can drop off from a loan differs from one program to another. For example, the FHA loan program was recently adapted to keep mortgage insurance on the loan for the duration of that loan. Conventional loan products have mortgage insurance for a specified timeframe or until the loan reaches certain parameters.

According to REColorado, the price of the average single-family home in the Denver metro area has risen 11%, from $424,364 to $469,613 between March 2017 and March 2018. Now is the perfect time to determine if you can remove mortgage insurance from your loan.

The Homeowners’ Protection Act provides for mortgage insurance to be removed in different ways. On a conventional loan, if you have paid your mortgage balance down to 78% of the sale price/home value at the time you took out your loan, mortgage insurance will be removed automatically. Alternatively, on a conventional loan, if you can prove to your loan servicer that you have 20% equity in the home, you can get your mortgage insurance removed. To do this, contact the loan servicer and request an appraisal. You must have good payment history, occupy the home as your primary or secondary residence, and have had the loan for at least two years. If all of these are accurate and the appraisal shows more than 20% equity, the loan servicer can remove mortgage insurance. This can be less costly than refinancing, especially if you have an interest rate below current market rates (around 4.5%-5.25%).

Note: FHA loans include mortgage insurance for the life of the loan. The only way to remove the mortgage insurance on an FHA loan is to refinance the loan completely.

Does a refinance make more sense for you?
With this in mind, now is the perfect time to contact me to review your current loan. Depending on your individual scenario, a refinance may be the perfect opportunity to remove your mortgage insurance premium as well as restructure your loan to achieve other goals. Do you need to add on or remodel your home? Pay off other debts or high interest credit cards that are eating at your monthly cash flow? Pay for college? Purchase a second home in a resort town?

Let’s talk about your loan to make sure it still fits your needs.

Is it Time to Review Your Homeowners’ Insurance Policy?

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Your home may be your biggest investment. Don’t let an unexpected surprise take it away. If there is one thing we have learned over time it is this. No matter where you live, you can expect the unexpected. Fires, floods, earthquakes, storms — we can’t stop them, but we can protect ourselves from financial devastation should the unthinkable happen.

Review your homeowner’s policy to make sure you know what is covered and what you may want to add to the policy in addition to what is already covered.

Things to consider:

Flood insurance and earthquake insurance typically need to be purchased separately from the homeowner’s policy or as additional endorsements.

Your policy may cover hail damage, but what if your roof is destroyed in a hail storm? Will you be able to get a new roof? Does your insurance cover full replacement value of your roof?

Your insurance may cover fire damage, but how do you ensure that all of the contents of your home are protected?

Do you need to consider an umbrella policy, just in case?

There may be ways you can save money and insure your home and its contents even better. An insurance professional will help you review your insurance coverage and make sure you and your family have the coverage you need.

Learn more with this Homeowner’s Guide to Natural Disasters from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc., and the The Actuarial Foundation, or contact your insurance agent today.

This year, don’t just renew your homeowner’s insurance policy — review and revise before you renew.